Rescue crew paddled 15 miles in dark to get to Girl Scouts in Boundary Waters

Six Girl Scouts and three of their chaperones are safe after being rescued from a lake on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Friday night after getting caught in a storm.

The scouts were part of a “high adventure programming series.” All of them were teenagers from the Chicago area.

At around 7:15 p.m. on Friday, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office got a call from one of the group leaders reporting a lightning strike near their campsite on Knife Lake. According to a statement from the Girl Scouts River Valleys, the leader followed the Girl Scout Organization’s protocol of reporting lightning strikes.

“The lightning, as it hit the tree, came down and hit the rock, bedrock around the lake area and the current had traveled across the rock and made contact with the girls,” a volunteer with the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Kurt Erickson said.

Erickson’s team, along with deputies from St. Louis County, the DNR, Boarder Patrol, USFS, Minnesota State Patrol and Ely Area Ambulance responded. Erickson said first responders considered using a helicopter or float plane to try and rescue the group but because it was already dark and the storms hadn’t cleared yet. Their only option was to paddle in.

“It required that we travel approximately 15 miles by water in the dark to get to the area," Erickson said. “It’s a pretty significant commitment of manpower. We needed up sending four boats and 12 people to facilitate getting the girls out.”

Once the group was to safety, medical responders checked them out. Two of the girls were taken to a hospital in Ely to be checked out further but were released. All of the girls were able to call their parents from the base camp on Saturday morning.

According to Julie Somogyi from the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwestern Indiana, all of the Girl Scouts were back at the base camp safely on Saturday morning. She said she’s proud of how the leaders and girls in the group were brave and prepared.

"I would say that any experience you have has the potential to have great learning. In this case, I think it truly is about not being timid about high adventure but being well prepared. I think that’s the key. To know that incase of something like this, which is clearly a natural situation, nature at its finest, that they were prepared to follow the protocols that would keep them safe,” Somogyi said.

A statement from Tish Bolger, CEO of Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys said: “We praise the leaders and girls for exemplifying the Girl Scout mission, by responding to this situation with courage, confidence, and character."

According to Somogyi, the scouts are scheduled to be at camp for a few more days. She said it will be up to them if they decide to stay for the duration of the trip or go home early.

“Girl Scouts are pretty resilient and adventurous souls so I’m pretty sure the conversation will turn to staying and enjoying their experience up there.”