Almost a month after she went missing in Lower Whitefish Lake, the body of Heather Fick was recovered Tuesday.
Fick's body was found about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday by the driver of a personal watercraft near Beacon Shores Resort on Lower Whitefish Lake.
"This is just a great sense of relief," said Crow Wing County Sheriff's Lt. Neal Gaalswyk. "In one sense we're happy for the family, though obviously we feel very sorry for their loss. But not being able to do a recovery is tough on everyone involved."
Fick, 28, of Andover, was married with two children, Amanda, 5, and Andrew, 2. She was a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital in the Twin Cities and her husband, John, is a Coon Rapids firefighter.
Fick's friend, Dena Stolp, said she was a fun-loving, caring and generous person, who spent her time focused on family and friends.
"Heather is a beautiful person both inside and out," Stolp said in an e-mail. "She would be the first to come if you needed anything.
"We are all sad but pleased that the family can move on."
Fick fell off the front of a pontoon boat about 6 p.m. June 19 on the east end of the 8,368-acre lake, about a half-mile south of the channel with Big Trout Lake. She fell into about 70-100 feet of water and she wasn't wearing a life jacket, the sheriff's office said.
Rescue personnel from throughout the state assisted the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Water Patrol and Dive Team in looking for Fick but they were often hampered by strong winds, waves and cold weather.
Gaalswyk said another factor in prolonging Fick's recovery was the water depth and water temperature.
Chris McLaughlin, 36, of Mount Prospect, Ill., found Fick's body. She was operating a personal watercraft with her 11-year-old son near Beacon Shores Resort on Lower Whitefish Lake Tuesday.
McLaughlin and her family have been staying at the resort, which is near the channel to Rush Lake and straight across Whitefish Lake from the channel with Big Trout Lake. They had been using personal watercraft since about 9 a.m., said Gaalswyk, and he believes wind and wave action pushed Fick's body close to the surface and the shore.
During the search for Fick, the sheriff's office was assisted by the Hennepin County Water Patrol, the St. Louis County Water Patrol, the Anoka County Dive Team, the Coon Rapids Fire Department, the Crosslake Fire Department, Brainerd Fire Department, the Minnesota Search and Rescue Dog Association and DNR conservation officers.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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