MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a cool April night around Rice Lake, dinner time is usually spent indoors.
“We were just setting up our spring stuff in the water,” said Brainerd City Council President Gary Scheeler.
But he happened to be out when he spotted something a few hundred yards away.
“In my mind [I’m thinking], ‘Well this has got to be the circle of death, which I’ve never witnessed, never saw but I’ve heard about it,” Scheeler said.
The driver of the boat let go of the steering handle, forcing the motor to slam to one side and tossing the two people onboard into the water — and into the path of the circling boat. Scheeler’s wife called 911.
“I said, ‘There’s somebody being shredded out there,’ is what I told my wife. It’s like a blender,” he said.
Scheeler ran to look for any kind of boat he could find on the water, which was difficult because it was April. Luckily, he spotted a pontoon two-doors down. The Kletschers’ boat was the only one docked so early in the season.
“I could hear the screams for help,” Scheeler said.
Together, Scheeler and Julie Kletscher were able to pull Tim Bahma onto the pontoon. Bahma’s girlfriend, Lori Sweet, had already been hit by the motor twice.
With such serious injuries, Scheeler held on and secured her with rope, leading her to shore.
“I had my finger amputated, I have a rod in here, twisted my arm 120 degrees,” Sweet said.
Three surgeries and five months later, Sweet was able to see her rescuers receive the public praise they deserve. They received a lifesaving award from the state of Minnesota, and a reminder of the difference each person can make.
“I wouldn’t be here today, and I thank them every day of my life,” Sweet said.
Doctors were surprised hypothermia did not set in for Sweet. The water temperature was 44 degrees that day, and she was in the water for at least a half hour.
Her boyfriend was not injured. Neither has been in a boat without a life jacket since that day.