West Chester Boy Scouts troop rescued from Minnesota waters after storm overwhelms canoes

LAKE COUNTY, Minn. -- Boy Scouts from West Chester were on board two canoes on a Minnesota lake Thursday afternoon when winds and waves became too strong for them to handle, and a helicopter had to rescue them after several hours of being stranded. 

The boys were on a lake of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) "within shouting distance of the Canadian border," the StarTribune reports .

When wind gusts and choppy waters intensified, eight members of the troop, including leaders and scouts, had their canoes capsized, forcing them all into the 40-degree water. The group was separated, but all eventually made it to shore and shined a strobe in hopes of catching rescuers' attention.

St. Paul Fire Capt. Alan Gabriele coordinated the rescue operation. A helicopter was dispatched to find the troop and crews first saw the strobe light, then spotted two adults through tall, dense trees. With the help of a rope, the Boy Scouts and leaders were lifted to safer grounds.

“It can be nearly impossible to find them without a strobe,” Gabriele said.

WATCH in the video player above: Video of the rescue from the helicopter.

State Patrol Pilot Dave Willers kept the helicopter steady throughout the airlift rescue. He told the StarTribune that the rocky shoreline and crashing waves prevented the use of a float plane.

Members of the troop suffered minor hypothermia but no one was severely hurt. They were examined at the nearby Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital as a safety precaution.

Captain Justin Mayne of the Lake County Rescue Sqaud told the StarTribune that each troop member was wearing a life jacket.

“Without those, we probably would’ve had a very different outcome," he said.

The Boy Scouts are 15 to 17 years old. According to the StarTribune, the troop brought a satellite phone into the rugged Minnesota wilderness, which often has poor cellphone reception. The phones alerted rescue crews of the trouble at about 4:20 p.m.

The troop was safe by 7 p.m.

Diana Hudson's husband, Howard, was part of the canoe adventure along with her twin sons.

“The last thing I said before he left was, ‘Keep my boys safe,'" Diana said. “My husband was in the water for about an hour before someone (in the group) grabbed him and pulled him to shore.”

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