Gophers rowing team rescues woman who was stuck in Mississippi River

A group of Gophers rowers and coaches were operating a camp out of the Minneapolis Rowing Club instead of the university's boathouse, which meant they were on a section of the river they usually aren't on when they rescued a stranded woman.

Courtesy University of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — Fast tides in the Mississippi River forced University of Minnesota rowing coach Wendy Davis to relocate her rowing camp to another spot on the river.

As it turns out, that was a blessing in disguise.

Davis, three college rowers and Gophers assistant rowing coach Peter Morgan helped rescue a woman who was stuck in a tree in the water early Wednesday morning. Davis was in one motorboat with two rowers attending the camp, while Morgan and another rower were in another boat. The group was operating the camp out of the Minneapolis Rowing Club instead of the university’s boathouse, which meant they were on a section of the river they usually aren’t on.

"She was about waist deep in the water. We see that all the time, people wading into the water, so I almost passed her by. Except that I went, ‘Wait, she’s wading in the water, but she’s in the trees. The trees are in the water,’" Davis told "So we swung in closer. I was with a couple athletes in my motorboat. We swung in closer and asked her if she needed help and she said yeah. As we got close, it was clear she was injured. It’s like, we need to take action."

The current in the Mississippi River made the rescue a bit tricky. Davis said she tried to pull the woman out from a location upstream of the tree, but eventually had to come from downstream. That meant one of the athletes had to clear logs and other debris in order to make a path to get to the trapped woman.

The three women in Davis’ boat had trouble lifting the woman from the water into the boat. By that time, Morgan — who had already called 911 — had brought his boat closer to the scene and was able to lift the woman’s legs from the water to help her in. She was then taken back to the dock, where paramedics and emergency medical technicians took over.

Davis said it was unclear how the woman ended up in the river, and as of Thursday afternoon she hadn’t heard anything new on the condition of the woman. Regardless, Davis was just glad she and the rowers were in the right place at the right time.

"We’ve been really bummed that we can’t operate out of our boathouse, that the river’s too fast up there. So I guess I’m glad that it was too fast," she said. "Thank goodness that happened, because otherwise I don’t know what would have happened to her."

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