MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The deaths of two young men in Wright County are serving as a tragic reminder of the dangerous ice conditions on area lakes.
Friends and school leaders in Rockford identified the victims as Adam Patnode and Brad Skafte. The two were riding a snowmobile on Lake Charlotte in Buffalo Saturday night when they broke through the ice and fell into the freezing water.
Lowell Johnson, who lives on Lake Charlotte, said the deaths have left him emotionally exhausted.
“Today, it hit me,” he said. “I’m drained, emotion-wise.”
Johnson never met Skafte or Patnode, but their deaths have taken a toll on him.
“My heart goes out to those parents, because I have three kids,” Johnson said.
But his emotion goes beyond any parental tie. The open water on Lake Charlotte almost cost Lowell his life as well.
“I couldn’t live with myself if I could have helped them and didn’t,” Johnson said.
When a neighbor saw the snowmobile fall into the lake just before 9 p.m. Saturday, Lowell took his own ATV out to offer help.
“I didn’t go 20 yards, and the machine went, boom, right straight down,” he said.
But before Johnson descended into the water, a neighbor pulled him to safety.
Authorities searched the ice for Skafte and Patnode until 3 a.m. Sunday before resuming the search at 9 a.m.
Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty said search crews found boots, caps and gloves floating in the open water.
By early afternoon, divers found two bodies. Hours later, the community came together to mourn in a vigil held at the community center.
Rockford High School Principal Ryan Jensen said Skafte and Patnode will be missed by their classmates and their community. Patnode graduated from Rockford High School in 2010; Skafte graduated in 2009. The school plans to bring in grief counselors on Tuesday after the holiday break.
For many in Wright County, the water of Lake Charlotte will never look quite the same.
“It’s a scary thing and a good warning to everyone,” said Johnson.