The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Two die in swimming accident

Jamie Christenson, 17, and Eric Hurst, 24, drowned July 30 on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. ELCA-affiliated Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry at Camp Vermillion organized the trip.

Christenson, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Marshalltown, Iowa, was swimming with her guide in a pool at the base of Upper Basswood Falls. Although she was wearing two life preservers, she became trapped under a current. Trying to rescue her, the guide nearly drowned. Hurst, another guide and member of First Lutheran Church, Minot, N.D., became trapped by the undertow when he jumped in to rescue Christenson.

"It was very painful and sad," said Camp Vermillion's executive director Nancy Hess. "We've been running this program for 40 years and this is the first accident we've had. Everything was done exactly according to protocol."

After the accident, the staff retrieved six groups of other campers, including two of Christenson's brothers. Northeastern Minnesota Synod Bishop Peter Strommen visited the camp in the days that followed. "During the Friday [closing] program, we spent time commemorating Jami's and Eric's lives and praying for them and their families," Hess said.

In addition to sympathy notes, the camp received help from volunteers including youth from Lutheran churches in Minnesota: Trinity, Cook; Roseville, Roseville; and First; Duluth. "Their kindness gets our tears going again," Hess said.


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