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Girl airlifted to Children's Hospital, saved from drowning at Robbins Island beach

WILLMAR - An 11-year-old Willmar girl remains in a coma at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis after she was rescued from drowning Thursday afternoon in the waters of Foot Lake in Willmar.

According to Willmar Police Capt. Jim Felt, emergency responders were called around 3:45 p.m. Thursday that a child was unaccounted for and underwater. By the time police officers, deputies from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office and Willmar Ambulance crews arrived, bystanders had found the girl, brought her to the beach and started CPR.

The quick response helped restore the girl's pulse and respirations, Felt said. She was then taken by ambulance to Rice Memorial Hospital and airlifted to Children's. The girl remained at the hospital Friday, according to information given to the Police Department from her family, Felt said.

The family members who spoke to police were unsure if the girl's state of unconsciousness was part of her treatment, Felt said.

There were four bystanders whom Felt credits with saving the girl's life.

Two men, Daniel Ruter and Robert Rodriguez, both of Willmar, went into the water and began searching for the girl after the group of friends she was swimming with notified an adult that they could not find the girl. The adult called 911.

Ruter and Rodriguez searched the waters within the marked swimming area and found the girl in about 7 feet of water and brought her to shore.

Two others, Melissa Bobrowski and Travis Toews, both lifeguards from Canada in town for the Sonshine Music Festival, began CPR on the girl and continued until emergency responders arrived and took over her care.

The estimated time that the girl was unaccounted for, and possibly underwater, was 3 to 4 minutes, Felt said.

The swimming beach at Robbins Island was posted, with multiple signs, as closed to swimming beginning Tuesday afternoon, according to Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

The beach was closed due to high fecal coliform test readings, due in part to the population of Canadian geese that nest at the lake.

The closure will continue until the testing shows acceptable readings for fecal coliform, Brisendine said.

Willmar Community Education and Recreation officials had planned to have lifeguards at the swimming beach during Sonshine because of the large number of people typically using the beach during the festival, Brisendine said. But, because the beach was closed to swimming, lifeguards were not working at the beach.

Due to budget cuts, there have not been guards regularly stationed at the beach this summer.