MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the many Minnesotans offering prayers for a family who lost two sons in a sailboat accident is a grandfather who experienced a similar tragedy — and has since become an advocate for cold water safety.

Ron Jacobson felt the pain of the Risland family after hearing that their sons, ages 6 and 2, died of hypothermia after their sailboat capsized in Beltrami County last Friday.

“It was just thinking about it all again. And it’s a tough one to handle,” said Jacobson.

His own grandson, Brian, died eight years ago when his boat went adrift and the 9-year-old tried to swim to shore.

“In April, on a spring day — nice and sunny and warm — our grandson drowned,” he said. “We think that if he had known something about cold water, it wouldn’t have happened.”

He says cold water is dangerous even for those wearing life jackets as the Risland boys were.

Experts say temperatures usually aren’t safe until June.

And they also advise carrying a cellphone in a plastic bag to call for help.

Jacobson oversees a website with safety information. It’s www.coldwaterwarning.com. April 14 will be Brian James Jacobson Cold Water Awareness Day.


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