On a recent windy day, a couple of canoers found themselves in the water at Lake Winona after their canoe capsized. One of them was in need of help, but they didn’t expect to be rescued by an elected official.

On July 10, at approximately 4:20 p.m., the Winona Police Department (WPD) assisted with a canoe capsizing on East Lake Winona near the Huff Street fishing pier. According to the report and the parties involved, the canoe reportedly capsized, possibly due to the strong winds. The two people in the canoe attempted to flip the canoe back over but were unable to. One of the canoers reportedly was unable to put on his life jacket and began to struggle to stay afloat. Reporting parties say the canoers cried out for help at that point.

A group of fishers on the dock saw what was going on and attempted to help the canoers. Reportedly, two of the fishers jumped into the lake to assist the canoers. One was State Senator Jeremy Miller, and the other was Michelle Blaskowski, who said she also jumped in to rescue the man.

“As we were fishing, out of the corner of my eye, I’d seen a canoe tip over and [it] was up on its side,” Miller said. He continued, “As I looked closer, I could really tell that [one of the canoers] was really struggling out there. He was struggling to keep his head above water. I looked at my boys and said, ‘I’m going in after them.’”

Miller said he jumped into the lake and swam back with the man in tow. Blaskowski also had jumped into the lake but Miller had reached the man first, she said. First responders were on standby to assist the canoers after the rescuers returned to shore. 

The struggling canoer reportedly did not suffer any injuries but was taken to the hospital due to being fatigued, and was released a few hours later, according to WPD Deputy Chief Jay Rasmussen. The other canoer reportedly was able to swim back to safety and was assisted by Blaskowski, she said.

“That same thing could’ve happened to any of us,” Miller said. “It’s a big relief to help get the canoers back to safety.”