Maple Grove neighbors rescue young group struggling in water

Nate Leppanen recounted the rescue effort by him and a group of others on a Maple Grove lake. (FOX 9)

As the summer goes on and the heat continues, we've seen drowning deaths continue to rise across the state. There could have been another tragedy on Weaver Lake in Maple Grove Thursday night if it weren't for the quick action of a neighbor.

Nate Leppanen was making dinner for his family when he heard cries for help in the distance.

"I heard a pretty clear 'Help!'...that's the first thing. I knew something was off," said Leppanen.

Rushing across the street to the shores of the lake, he immediately knew something was wrong.

"I looked out to the lake and saw four heads kind of bobbing out there, and they looked pretty desperate," said Leppanen.

Four young people with only two life jackets were struggling in the water as their paddle boat was drifting away. Leppanen jumped into action, making his way through the muck and weeds to help the group back to shore and safety.

"Luckily, I got there just before it got even worse," he said.

The instinct to help was almost second nature. As a kid, Leppanen's parents worked as volunteer firefighters.

"Growing up, any time a pager went off, like a call for help, it was out the door… drop everything you have," said Leppanen.

He insists this was a team effort though, and without the help of other neighbors, this story could have a very different ending. He hopes this serves as a good reminder for people to be careful while they're out enjoying the lake.

"It's been fun to get out. There's been a lot of new people, which is also fun, but at the same time, it seems like there's more opportunity there to educate on water safety," said Leppanen.