2 missing after going over Minnesota waterfall in canoe

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Minn. — Authorities are searching for two people reported missing Saturday after four people in canoes went over a waterfall in northeastern Minnesota.

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The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office learned of the incident, on Iron Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, around 7:20 p.m. Saturday. Deputies learned two canoes had gone over Curtain Falls, leaving a 47-year-old “badly injured” and two others missing.

Authorities used a helicopter to evacuate the injured person to a hospital, where they were being treated for “serious but not life-threatening injuries,” deputies said. Two other people who were uninjured, including one who was at the group’s campsite at the time of the incident, were also flown out of the area.

Deputies on Monday identified the missing canoeists as 41-year-old Jessie Melvin Haugen, of Cambridge, Minnesota, and 40-year-old Reis Melvin Grams, of Lino Lakes, Minnesota.

“Friends, two families and a wide circle of friends are devastated tonight by the events at Curtain Falls in the Boundary Waters,” the St. Louis County Rescue Squad said early Monday in a social media post. “Two paddlers are still missing. We ask that you keep them and their families in your thoughts.”

Crews have been searching the area around the clock. Members of the rescue squad looked Sunday “until it was too dark to see” and slept on the ground to get back to looking at first light, officials said. Remote-operated vehicles and drones have also been deployed.

Efforts have been complicated by rapid water conditions and the remote location of Curtain Falls. According to the rescue squad, the falls are “extremely difficult to access, and we are depending heavily on our aviation partners to transport equipment, supplies, and personnel in and out of the backcountry.”

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area stretches over one million acres in northeastern Minnesota and is renowned for recreational opportunities on its lakes and streams, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It is among the most visited wilderness areas in the country.

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