Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp reports that two lost fishermen were found by deputies between Knudson Dam and Three Mile Road after they sunk their boat on the Mississippi River and began walking in the woods to seek help. The Sheriff's Office received a cellular phone call from the fishermen at 6:56 PM Friday, after they became lost in the woods and swamps north of the river. Deputies responded to the scene, and located the sunken boat and began searching for the men.
The men were identified as William Wright, 69, of Northome, Minnesota and David Wright, 61 of Brainerd, Minnesota.
Dispatchers mapped the location of the men with the GPS feature on the cellular telephone used by the fishermen. With this information, the dispatcher was able to guide the men closer to the river. Deputies began hollering for the men and sounding horns. The men reported to dispatch they were exhausted, cut up and being eaten by bugs. The men walked toward the noise and deputies entered the woods on foot. One of the men had faltered from dehydration when they were found. They were brought out to the river and loaded onto sheriff's office boats by officers. They were delivered to Knudson Dam where they were treated by EMS from Leech Lake Ambulance Service.
Members from Leech Lake Tribal Police, Tribal Conservation Officers and US Border Patrol assisted the Sheriff's Office in recovering the brothers.
According to a statement from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department: When the Beltrami County Sheriff's 911 Center received the first call at 6:56 PM (cell phone coverage is sporadic in that area and the fact that the men were able to finally make contact via cell phone was an issue- several cell phone calls were made due to insufficient coverage making tracking the location very difficult) the men, both around the age of 60, had already been walking for over three hours - after successfully making it to shore following the sinking of the boat. To have survived and made it out of the river was a miracle in itself as the river in that area is full of tall grasses and very rough terrain. Our deputies were able to make physical contact with them at 8:21 PM-although that may not sound like a very long time it was huge. As mentioned the terrain in that country is extremely difficult to walk through with swamps and deadfall everywhere. Another miracle ensued with the men being able to navigate that terrain in 90 degree heat with high humidity. We have no report of any alcohol involved- the high temperature, humidity and physical stress involved definitely caused the dehydration factor. There were no roads or trails for them to navigate- just incredible swamps and very rough terrain.