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Teenager on jet ski rescues swimmer on Lake Bemidji

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp announced the safe rescue of a boater Sunday, Aug. 22, by 14- year-old jet skier.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the Beltrami County Law Enforcement Center was notified that a swimmer, 28-year-old James Wheeler of Bemidji, had entered the water to recover a lost article from a pontoon boat and then became separated from the boat during heavy winds on Lake Bemidji. Wheeler jumped into the lake to recover a towel which had blown from the pontoon boat. After recovering the towel, Wheeler attempted to swim back to the pontoon boat, which was not anchored and was being blown away from the swimmer in heavy waves. The waves on the lake pushed the pontoon boat farther and farther away from Wheeler, and the passengers on the pontoon boat were unable to throw any sort of flotation device to Wheeler. They were also unable to start the pontoon to return to Wheeler's location to pick him up.

Brett Hartje, 14, of Bemidji, appeared on the scene on a jet ski. He saw Wheeler going under and could only see his arm sticking out of the water. Hartje was able to approach Wheeler, grab him and pull him to safety on his jet ski. Hartje returned Wheeler to his pontoon boat where he was met by a deputy. Wheeler's pontoon boat was towed to shore. Wheeler refused further medical treatment.

Beltrami County Sheriff's Office commends the lifesaving actions of Brett Hartje for acting quickly in this case to avert a potential tragedy. Recreational boaters are asked to anchor their boats before diving into the water.