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Man drowns in Temperance River

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
(218) 732-8757 customer support
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

A Minnesota man described as a good swimmer was swept away by the strong currents of the Temperance River on Saturday.

Authorities found the body of 45-year-old Ari Sommerfeld of Ramsey, Minn., the next day in Lake Superior. The river has claimed at least five other people in recent years, including two last summer.

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The report Saturday came in to 911 from a fellow swimmer.

"I was swimming with him and we were trying to swim upstream," the caller said. "And I said 'I'm not going to. The current's too strong.' "

He probably was the last person to see Sommerfeld alive.

"He dove into one of the pools and unfortunately was unable to climb out and succumbed to the current and drowned," said Chief Deputy Leif Lunde of the Cook County Sheriff's Office. He said authorities recovered Sommerfeld's body on Sunday just after noon.

It was Sommerfeld's friend who called 911. "I told him, I says, I don't think it's a good idea," the friend told the dispatcher. "I can't find him anywhere."

"In the area he was, he was unable to overpower it. He got pulled downstream," Lunde said.

Because of the strong current of the Temperance River, park officials warn against swimming, but Sommerfeld had done it before.

"He was a very good swimmer," Lunde said. "He'd come up here camping many years. He'd swam in the river many times so this was quite unexpected."

The Department of Natural Resources has posted signs warning of the danger of the river.

The Temperance River drops more than 160 feet in a half-mile before flowing into the lake. The gorge upstream of Highway 61 is narrow and twisted, containing several waterfalls. The river has been the site of at least five other fatal accidents over the past dozen years.

Two members of a Twin Cities-area church group drowned in June 2008 after wading into a pool in the Temperance River just upstream of Minnesota Highway 61.

In June 2001, a 22-year-old Finland man died from head injuries after falling into the river when he slipped while attempting to climb down a steep rock face.

In August 2000, a 50-year-old Arbor Vitae, Wis., man died after diving into the river to save his 8-year-old son, who was swimming in the river and being swept by the current into Lake Superior. The father pushed his son closer to shore, where others pulled him ashore.

In July 1999, a 48-year-old Remer man drowned after he rescued his 12-year-old daughter from the river after she became trapped in the current. After removing his daughter, the man disappeared. Searchers recovered his body after three days.

And in August 1996, a 14-year-old Crystal, Minn., boy drowned after he dove into the shallow river just below a waterfall near Minnesota Highway 61 while swimming with friends.

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