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Sailboat survivor, 8, shows positive signs after accident

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
Sailboat survivor, 8, shows positive signs after accident
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

LEONARD - An 8-year-old boy who fell into a frigid lake near here remains in critical condition, but is showing positive signs.

"It's my understanding that he's opened his eyes and is moving his hands," Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson said Monday morning.


Isaiah Risland is hospitalized in critical condition at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis after the 10-foot sailboat he was in capsized Friday afternoon.

His two brothers, 6-year-old Zech and 2-year-old Jacob, died of hypothermia after spending about an hour in the 40-degree waters of Clearwater Lake, which stretches into both Clearwater and Beltrami counties.

Their father, Dan Risland of Leonard, told authorities the boat capsized, and he was unable to get the boys to shore due to the wind and strong current. Risland then left the boys, who all wore life jackets, to summon help.

The father flagged down someone to call 911, and first responders from at least eight agencies scrambled to the lake, about eight miles north of Leonard and nearly 30 miles northwest of Bemidji, to rescue the boys.

Family members are asking for prayers for Isaiah Risland, who was not breathing and had no pulse when he was pulled from the lake.

"It's a miracle" the boy has survived, Erickson said.

After an ambulance took Isaiah to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, he was airlifted Friday to Children's Hospital.

The hospital hasn't released the boy's condition, but Erickson said Isaiah's condition hadn't changed since the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office last reported he was in critical condition.

Gadget Soule, Risland's sister-in-law, told the Star Tribune she watched the boys leave to go sailing, and they were thrilled to take their new sailboat out for the first time.

"They were all excited to go out and sail with Daddy," she said. "They lived for him, and he lived for them."

Residents in the small town of Leonard, where Risland has been mayor for several years, were shaken by the tragedy. The town, about eight miles south of Clearwater Lake, has a population of about 40 people.

"It's devastating for us as a school and as a community," said Kristil McDonald, principal at Clearbrook-Gonvick Schools, where the two older boys were enrolled. "Everyone knows everyone. We'll all be grieving and dealing with the situation."

The Star Tribune reported Risland was an avid outdoorsman and had bought the sailboat just last week.

Risland's sister, Rosie Miles, said the brothers were rambunctious young boys, who couldn't sit still unless they were watching "Veggie Tales" or playing outside with their dad. She said the family is devastated.

"It was Easter weekend; he wanted to take his kids out on his new boat," Miles said. "He told me, 'I love my boys.'"

A fund has been set up to help the family. Donations can be sent to the Dan Risland fund, Country Faith Church, P.O. Box 41, Clear-brook, MN 56634.

Pioneer staff reports