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Dramatic Lake of the Woods rescue saves man trapped in the cabin of capsized boat

For awhile Monday afternoon, Lake of the Woods County Sheriff Dallas Block thought authorities were going to be dragging the bottom of Lake of the Woods for a body.

Instead, a team effort between local resorts and authorities from as far away as Roseau, Minn., resulted in the dramatic rescue of a Grand Forks-area man who'd been in the water nearly 3 hours after the boat he was in capsized Monday afternoon.

"It was a tremendous rescue," Block said this morning. "We had rough water -- 8-foot-plus waves -- so you can just imagine. We thought we were going to have a dragging operation, and it turned out we had a successful rescue and only because of the help of our resorters."

According to Block, seven men from the Grand Forks area were anchored about six miles north of Pine Island on Monday afternoon when the boat capsized. The boat had taken on water, unbeknownst to the anglers, because of problems with the bilge pump, Block said.

One of the men caught a fish, Block said, and when the rest of the anglers walked to that side of the boat to witness the catch, the 25-foot Stingray capsized.

Six of the men were rescued by other boats nearby, Block said, but one man fishing in the bow area was unable to get free of the craft.

Block said the sheriff's department received word of the capsizing about 2 p.m. Monday.

"When we got the report, we know the boat had capsized and six people had been picked up and one was missing," Block said.

Names of the seven men onboard weren't immediately available this morning.

The sheriff said Brian Ney of Adrian's Resort was on the lake and swam to the capsized boat. Ney talked to the man trapped inside the bow, Block said, learning he still had plenty of oxygen. Divers from the Roseau Police Department and Baudette then got into the cabin and rescued the man, who by that time had been trapped about 2½ hours, Block said.

Ney didn't immediately respond to requests for comment this morning.

According to Block, Steve Ballard of Ballard's Resort and Tony Beckel of Sportsman's Lodge were able to hook on to the boat and tow it to shore. Also assisting in the rescue were personnel from Wheeler's Point Resort and the U.S. Border Patrol, which supplied a boat and a diver.

"Thanks to a combined effort, we were successful," Block said.

The sheriff said the men wouldn't have had the problems they encountered with the boat taking on water if they'd known about the faulty bilge pump.

"But on the other hand, this lake needs to be respected," Block said. "It can get rough fast."

Brad Dokken is a reporter at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.