Minneapolis

SOS from handheld device saves man from freezing to death in Boundary Waters

2020-10-19 17:31:22 –

A handheld satellite communication device was all that kept a 34-year-old man from freezing to death while camping and canoeing alone deep in the northern Minnesota wilderness.

The adventurer sent out an electronic SOS from deep within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) on Saturday, and rescuers answered the call and brought the man and his gear out just in time amid temperatures in the teens, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the St. Louis County Rescue Squad.

“It was still snowing heavily when they initially found his campsite” at Nina Moose Lake, roughly 25 miles north of Ely, said DNR spokesman Joe Albert. “Most of the clothes the man had were wet. There was a light down jacket hanging in the tree that was frozen solid.”

The rescue squad said Chori Rummel, of Elkhart, Ind., was suffering from hypothermia when he sent an emergency message shortly before 5 p.m. from a Garmin inReach, which range in price from $150 to $450, depending on the model.

Rescue squad Capt. Rick Slaten said that Rummel is fortunate to be alive given the combination of the backwoods visitor being alone, the lake starting to ice over and him having lightweight clothing, tent and sleeping bag in wintry conditions.

Even if he were strong enough to make it out on his own, Slaten said, Rummel would have had to walk out with his canoe and gear, rather than make his escape on the water.

“The ice is now too thick for canoeing,” the captain said. “Our people had to break ice to get in there.”

A DNR conservation officer and three members of the all-volunteer rescue squad members broke through the thin layer of ice by canoe to the campsite shortly after 8 p.m., well after dark, but first needed to treat the man for hypothermia before returning him to civilization, Slaten said.

“Rescue personnel began warming him with heat pads and then got a fire going,” Albert said. “He sat near the fire, wrapped in a wool blanket, for about 90 minutes before rescuers brought him out of the wilderness.”

Slaten said the man was showing signs of hypothermia when the rescuers arrived on the first day of what Rummel intended to be a weeklong visit.

“He was a little bit slurred in speech on first contact,” the captain said. “When you have hypothermia, you start to lose fine motor skills. … He was a little sluggish in performance before we got some heat in him.”

The Sheriff’s Office statement said it recommends “all who venture into the BWCA to prepare for all conditions, do not take any unnecessary risks, leave an itinerary of your travel plan, and travel with a GPS or SOS device if possible in case of emergencies.”

 

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