MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A duck-hunter on North Long Lake is crediting his life jacket for saving his life after a recent close call in the water near Brainerd.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Alec Stark’s 16-foot boat took on too much water on a windy morning last Saturday. The crew was forced to abandon the boat.

“Without the life jackets, we wouldn’t have been able to swim back. And had we not already been wearing them, there wouldn’t have been time to put them on,” Stark, 24, said. “The shock of the cold water – you can’t even think. You’re just trying to breathe.”

Stark and his three passengers made it to the shore, where they were taken to hospital with signs of hypothermia.

The DNR said nine people have died in boating accidents this year, which is the fewest since 2010. Most incidents occur in the warmer summer months, but a higher percentage of incidents in the cold-water season prove fatal.

The DNR asks that anyone who boats during the cold-water season wear a life jacket, file a float plan, carry a communications device to call for help, and be prepared to deal with an unforeseen incident.

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