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Woman Recalls Tragic Canoe Trip That Took Her Husband’s Life

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77642_Reg Chapman Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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BWCA, Minn. (WCCO) – An anniversary canoe trip to the boundary waters turned tragic for a Minnetonka couple.

Dick and Elaine Barber had paddled into the Basswood River rapids before, but this time the water was high and fast and the canoe they were in tipped over.

Elaine made it to shore, but Dick did not.

The couple, who had been together 30 years and enjoyed canoeing and back-packing across Canada and Europe, had planned a return visit to the rapids in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, just north of the BWCA.

“It was starting at all these rapids and we were heading into Argo,” Elaine said.

The beautiful green trout lake in Argo was something she wanted to see again.

“So he was billing my wishes, and it was my anniversary gift,” she said. “Unfortunately we did not make it.”

Elaine said the river had changed after 10 years — the water was high and fast.

Their canoe went over a drop, capsized, and both fell into the frigid water.

“Somehow I was able to get to the shore, and he said ‘I can’t move,’” Elaine said. “I kept saying to him, ‘Just come this way, come this way.’ He said, ‘I cannot move,’ and then he disappeared.”

Their canoe was nowhere to be found, Elaine used a spot locator to call for help, and they came but could not find her.

She spent the night on an island, wondering if she should have tried to go back in the water to save her husband.

“I may have ended up losing my life over that because I didn’t have the canoe,” she said. “That’s something I will always have to live with.”

She said she’ll miss his sweet spirit.

“Kindness, sense of humor, love of life, love of other people,” she said.

Elaine has advice for anyone who loves the outdoors.

“Get prepared for the events that you don’t think are going to happen, and if you go in, have a safety device with you,” she said.

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