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Two men die after being swept away by Lake Superior waves near Tofte

Two Wisconsin men died after being swept away by large waves Tuesday along the Lake Superior shore near Tofte.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office reported that authorities were notified just after 3 p.m. that a person was in Lake Superior near Bluefin Bay Resort. Evan Alexander Johnson, 40, of Menomonie, Wis., was in distress in the lake - a Coast Guard news release said Johnson reportedly had gone swimming after being in a hot tub on shore - and Wayne Louis Hoffman, 66, of Spring Green, Wis., who had attempted to rescue Johnson, was swept in by a large wave. Waves were reported to be 4 to 6 feet at the time, with a water temperature of 37 degrees and thick fog.

Johnson was pulled from the lake at about 3:30 p.m. and transported to Cook County North Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Hoffman was located by a boat crew from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Duluth at about 10 p.m., about 400 yards off shore and a half-mile from where he had been swept in the water. The Coast Guard reported that the boat crew conducted CPR, but he was pronounced dead by EMS personnel on shore.

Multiple agencies, including the U.S. and Canadian coast guards and the Minnesota State Patrol, were involved in the search for Hoffman. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that its Duluth boat crew - on the water in a 25-foot response boat - was assisted by a Canadian Coast Guard C-130 plane, which dropped flares to illuminate the search area. Search crews also covered five miles of shoreline before Hoffman was located.

Attempts to bring U.S. Coast Guard and Minnesota State Patrol helicopters to the scene were unsuccessful because of icing conditions that kept the aircraft grounded.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Cook County Search and Rescue, Cook County Ambulance, Tofte Fire Department, Tofte Rescue Squad, Lutsen Fire Department and Grand Marais Fire Department also were involved in the search.

Tofte is about 80 miles northeast of Duluth.

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