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Henn. Co. Seeks More Water Patrol Volunteers

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When responding to ice accidents, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office says they want more resources.

On Lake Minnetonka alone this winter, county rescue crews have responded to at least 14 vehicles falling through the ice. Three people died.

Eight-month-old Tabatha Markle was trapped underwater for more than 15 minutes when her family’s SUV plunged through the ice last month. It was on the other side of the lake in Halstead Bay. In that case, her father drove through a channel to take a short cut home.

It comes down to more volunteers. Right now, Hennepin County has about 100 of them. They help warn people about the dangers on the lakes and respond to emergencies. But Lt. Art Saunders says they need many more.

“Our staff level, say at Water Patrol, we have six people. I have six deputies on full time. Not enough people,” Saunders said.

Authorities say a major incident can require the help of up to 20 people. So the sheriff’s office wants to recruit more civilians to work for free. Authorities say there are currently 98 volunteer. Lt. Saunders wants at least 150.

Tasks volunteers perform include helping handle communication at the scene, help with parking emergency vehicles and many others.

If more were to volunteer, authorities say the benefit would be huge.

“The more people we have working with us, the better we can serve Hennepin County,” Saunders said.

One of the water patrol volunteers said he had a year of training for his specialty. These volunteers help with water safety and help patrol large events in Hennepin County such as the Twin Cities Marathon.

Volunteers work every other weekend for eight hours, and are called upon when needed – which volunteers say happens a few times a year.

Click here for more information about the Water Patrol.

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