By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis couple that first responders say were seconds away from drowning described Tuesday their dramatic rescue on the Mississippi River.

Roland Buckner and his fiancée Brandi Brown had gone out on a boat last Friday to take advantage of one of the first warm days of spring. They were anchored near the middle of the Mississippi River, just south of Interstate 694.

Brown and Buckner had just tried to pull up the anchor when their 1979 Glastron runabout boat tipped, began to fill with water and capsized. It all happened in seconds.

“All I could think of was ‘I can’t breathe and God help me,'” Buckner said.

Clinging to their rapidly sinking boat, the couple were swept 500 yards downstream.

“My only thought was: ‘I don’t want to separate from him,'”  Brown said.

A passerby called 911, and rescuers were there in minutes. Minneapolis Fire Captain Jason Dohm said one of them was starting to sink.

Buckner, who has stage three brain cancer, said he felt his life slipping away.

“My face was underwater,” he said, “and I wasn’t breathing.”

Tethered Minneapolis firefighters swam out to the couple and pulled them to shore.

“If they wouldn’t have been there, we would have been gone,” Buckner said. “I know I would have.”

He also credits Brandi for not letting go.

“She is a strong swimmer,” he said, “and she is my lifesaver.”

The couple has a message they want to share with the public: never take off your life jackets.

The couple had life jackets in the boat but had taken them off. Both were treated for hypothermia at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

Brown lost her engagement ring in the river, but she says that can be replaced.


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