Three Crew Club members attempt river rescue

Three Crew Club members attempt river rescue

Three St. Thomas students who are members of the Crew Club were involved in efforts Sunday morning to rescue a Woodbury man who died after he was swept into the Mississippi River north of the St. Paul campus.

Crew Club members had gone to the Minneapolis Rowing Club on the west bank of the river below the Marshall Avenue-Lake Street Bridge to work on a community service project when they heard someone yelling for help. The St. Thomas crew teams keep their rowing shells at the club.

Shelby Lieffers, a senior and president of the Crew Club, said the calls came from the St. Paul side of the river. After calling 911, three students – Danielle Assie, Jim Portmann and Kyle Smisek – and an unidentified Minneapolis Rowing Club member jumped into two St. Thomas aluminum boats with motors and headed across the Mississippi.

“Jim and I were in one boat, and a St. Paul police officer got in the launch (boat) with us,” said Assie, a sophomore from Saskatoon, Sask. “We went up and down the river a couple of times looking for anything, and then the third time Jim saw a backpack floating in the river.”

The group found Ian Talty, 30, with the backpack and hauled him onto shore about 500 yards south of the bridge. The police officer and Assie performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until St. Paul Fire Department paramedics arrived on the scene. They took Talty to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he died.

St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said Talty and Nicholas Breid of Bloomington had been exploring a stormwater tunnel and taking photos near the bridge and Mississippi River Boulevard. When a thunderstorm hit the area, the men were swept into the river by water filling the tunnel. Breid scrambled to safety, and the St. Thomas students heard his calls for help.

“It’s really brave what the St Thomas students did, going into the water like that,” Zaccard said. “They were really on the spot.”