Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Callie Crane, 11, and Karissa Larsen, 14, are good swimmers who saved their friend, 17-year-old Jon Capes, from drowning in a popular area swimming hole last week.
But to his mother, Leah Trottier, they're nothing less than guardian angels.
Trottier told them so in a gathering Sunday, June 28, at Fair Haven Mill County Park where the two girls had helped Capes cheat a watery death in the Clearwater River three days earlier.
"I literally think they're like his guardian angels," Trottier said as she and Capes thanked them with St. Christopher medals, angel figurines and pins and plenty of hugs.
"If it wasn't for them my son wouldn't be standing here talking," she said. "I could never say enough thank-yous for saving Jon's life."
Capes, who lives a couple miles north of the park in Fair Haven Township with his father, Richie, spent Thursday night, June 25, in St. Cloud Hospital after being under water for a minute or more about noon that day.
He was released Friday, June 26, after an X-ray showed his lungs were just about clear of water, his mother said.
He's expected to make a full recovery, said Trottier, who lives in Kimball.
Capes said Sunday he felt well enough to have attended the Old Settlers' Picnic in Fair Haven the day before.
He went to the mill dam with the two girls Thursday after meeting them earlier in the week.
Karissa and her family recently moved to Kimball from Maple Grove. Callie lives in St. Michael and was visiting the home of her dad and Larsen's mother.
Generations of youngsters have enjoyed swinging from a rope suspended from a tree at the dam and plunging into the river.
Capes said he's not a swimmer, but he was trying to make his way from a boat landing to the rope, which is directly across the river, when he ran into a drop-off.
"After that I don't remember a thing," he said. "I panicked."
According to the girls, Capes and Karissa were swimming across and Callie had already reached the rope when Capes went under.
He came up and pushed Karissa under water, then went under again. "He was under for like a minute and a half, two minutes," she said.
Some other kids didn't realize he was in trouble and were laughing, Callie said, but she knew something was wrong.
Callie got on the rope and dove out to Capes, who was five feet under water and twitching.
Though she's much smaller than the boy, she wrapped both arms around his ribs and pulled him to the surface. But she was too small to hold him there. "So I had to hold him by his hair to keep his mouth and nose above water."
She pulled him to where she could touch the river bottom and he stood up but suddenly fell into Karissa's arms.
Karissa said she grabbed him and brought him to the edge of the bank below the rope tree. Though he said he was Okay, he kept sinking into the water, so she supported him with her body.
Callie wanted to have Capes lie down, but Karissa said he needed to sit up.
Callie said she pushed on his stomach twice, though she doesn't know cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Then Karissa held him up.
"As soon as I sat him up he threw up everywhere," Karissa said. "All of the algae and water that was in his lungs shot out."
They hailed a fisherman with a boat and took him to the boat launch on the other side of the river.
Capes laid down near the boat launch while Karissa called Trottier and 9-1-1 on his cell phone, and Callie went up to County Road 2 to direct the ambulance.
The South Haven Fire Department rescue squad responded, followed by Gold Cross Ambulance.
By just before 1 p.m. Capes was able to walk to a stretcher for the trip to the hospital.
Before he was loaded into the ambulance, Callie said, he looked over and gave Karissa a smile.
"We both saved a life today," Callie said hours after the rescue. "We're both very happy."
She's been swimming "for a really long time" and is a strong swimmer, the soon-to-be sixth-grader said.
Karissa, also a strong swimmer, added, "If we wouldn't've been there he would've died."
Ambulance personnel at the scene gave the girls a pat on the back, she said.
"They told us that we did really good and (Jon) should be thankful that we were there."
Callie's father, James Crane, said they almost weren't there because he was concerned they might get hurt swinging from the old tree.
"I almost didn't let them go."
Capes' grandmothers, Sharon Capes of Fair Haven Township and Donna Nelson of Dassel, said immediately afterward that the rope should be taken down.
But his cousin, Nicole Mackereth of Kimball, said the Department of Natural Resources takes it down every year and the kids put it back up.
"Either that or have the place supervised," Nelson said.
A 17-year-old Maple Lake boy nearly drowned there two years ago after being under water for several minutes. But within a month he appeared to have made a remarkable recovery.
An area resident said at the time she could recall only one drowning, a small child many years ago.