Search crews have found the body of a missing 88-year-old Stockton man who fell out of a canoe while fishing Friday morning, WCCO reports.
Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said the body of Robert Lester Duncanson was recovered Saturday afternoon about 50 feet from where he fell into the Mississippi River near Winona.
Duncanson was in his canoe near the Prairie Island spillway in Winona at about 11 a.m. Friday, when the boat tipped over and he disappeared, the Winona Daily News reports. One witness told the Winona County Sheriff's Department he was holding on to a tree branch right after his canoe flipped, but it snapped and he went under the water, WKBT reports.
According to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, rescue teams earlier found what they believe are the man's life jacket, hat and canoe in the turbulent waters.
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Duncanson was a regular to the area. One witness tells the La Crosse Tribune he could be seen fishing in the area frequently. Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand called Duncanson a good swimmer, KTTC reports.
But the area on the Mississippi near the Prairie Island spillway is a dangerous one, ABC 6 reports. The water is already abnormally high after a glut of rain in recent weeks. And the spillway itself causes problems – water gushes over it and collides with separate undercurrents, creating a "recirculating" current, the Winona Daily News explains.
The water in the area is generally 5-7 feet deep, but there are pockets where it can drop as far as 60 feet, the fire chief tells KTTC.
A member of the rescue team told ABC 6 Friday the river was too dangerous for divers to go into the water, and the team's sonar cameras wouldn't work because of the fast current. The station says that section of the river averages one or two deaths a year.
On Friday, the Minnesota DNR issued a warning to watergoers after the recent spate of heavy rains, telling them not to let their guard down.
“High water levels mean a fast and strong moving current, which many boat operators and swimmers are not used to, and that can create dangerous situations,” said Kara Owens, a DNR boating safety specialist.
In addition, the unusually fast current "makes it more difficult for even an experienced swimmer to swim or stay afloat if their boat or canoe capsized," the DNR says.
Earlier this week, firefighters in Stearns County rescued a man on the Sauk River after his canoe capsized in the fast-moving water. Two others who were thrown into the river were able to swim to shore Thursday night. A third man swam to an island and clung to branches until help arrived.
The DNR says one person has died in a boating accident so far this year, and six others have drowned.