WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 12, 2011, 09:07 AM

Breckenridge teenagers speak out about Otter Tail River rescue

Breckenridge, Minn. (WDAY TV) - It is a story that easily could have ended tragically. Three teen-age boys from Breckenridge say they are lucky to be alive today after they were dumped from their boat. Breckenridge Firefighters quickly rescued the boys, who told their harrowing tale.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Gavin Amdahl: “Just looking for a place to put traps.”

Gavin Amdahl and Cody DeFries recall every detail of their trip on to the Otter Tail River. While putting out beaver traps their duck boat hit trouble.

“Yeah, it was terrible.”

GAVIN AMDAHL - Boat Sank In River: “We ended up in that current and the current pushed us into a log and it brought the boat under and it flipped it under us.”

CODY DeFRIES - Rescued from River: “The boat hit the tree and I stuck my arm out trying to tip the boat under it and do what I could. It happened so quick, by the time the boat was gone, I was still holding on to the tree. I hung on with both my arms and my hip waders were filling with water.”

Amazingly Gavin swam across the river after being separated from the other two, but it was not without a close call.

Gavin: “I ended up in the middle of the river. 100-200 yards past, I had to get my waders off, they were filling with water. I was sinking. I kicked them off and headed to shore.”

He reached his buddies who by now were clinging to life on branches, shivering. In order to get help to save them all, he went back into the water to get to a road.

Gavin: “By the time I reached shore, I was shaking, it was cold. By the time I got there, I had hypothermia.”

Cody: “10-15 min to get out of the water, it was just fighting the current. It was bad.”

Breckenridge firefighters were on scene in minutes. They dragged a rescue boat down to the Otter Tail and took off.

KEITH ROBERTSDAHL - Breckenridge Firefighter: “They were shivering pretty hard. They were hanging on.”

None of the rescuers was sure what they would find, survivors or victims of a tragedy.

“This could have been real bad real quick.”

Two of the three boys were back in school today. Tired, sore, and while all are longtime hunters who use the river often, they realize going on the swollen flooded river in a flat bottom boat without wearing life jackets is a gamble they won't risk again.

“Stay off the river and wear a lifejacket.”

All three boys were treated at the scene for hypothermia and released. The lifejackets were in the boat. The boys just did not have them on. The duck boat and the two rifles are somewhere in the river.