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Quick decision to take early swim saves senior's life after Tyson Lake, Minn., mishap

This submitted photo shows Evan Wintz and Harlan Schwerin standing on top of a sunken pickup truck. Wintz, 23, swam out to help Schwerin, 84, from the truck as it sank and waited with him until rescuers could reach the scene. Submitted photo

TYSON LAKE -- Evan Wintz of Clarkfield took an early season plunge into icy waters, and saved a life by doing so.

Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten credits Wintz, 23, with saving the life of Harlan Schwerin, 84, of Wood Lake on Tuesday afternoon.

Wintz swam an estimated 20 or 30 yards into Tyson Lake to rescue Schwerin. He was stranded in his sinking, 2007 Dodge Dakota pickup truck in the shallow lake located near Wood Lake in the southeastern portion of Yellow Medicine County.

Wintz and another motorist, Mike Hinz, had spotted the pickup in the water shortly before 2 p.m. They realized that it was floating out from shore and that it was occupied, said Sheriff Flaten.

Realizing that it was sinking as well, Wintz swam out to Schwerin. At first, Schwerin was unable to roll down his truck window to get out of it.

As it sank and the water pressure equalized, he was able to do so and Wintz helped evacuate him from the submerged truck, according to the sheriff.

Sheriff Flaten said the quick action by Wintz to swim out and help Schwerin get out of the sunken vehicle almost certainly prevented a tragedy.

The truck sank in about eight feet of water, and Wintz stayed with Schwerin on top of the truck and waited for rescuers. Emergency crews from Wood Lake and Cottonwood arrived first at the scene and rescued the driver, said the sheriff.

He noted that the men had been in the ice-chilled waters for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Schwerin was showing signs of hypothermia, and was transported to the hospital in Marshall for care. He has since been treated and released.

It's not clear how Schwerin's vehicle had entered the water. He had been traveling on County Road 1 east of the intersection of County Road 6 when the vehicle left the road and entered the water.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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