BAXTER - A 6-year-old girl celebrating her birthday Sunday at Whipple Beach Park in Baxter was rushed to the hospital after she was found face down in Whipple Lake.
Emergency personnel were called to the park in northwest Baxter about 7:30 p.m. The girl, whose name was not released Sunday night, was reported in critical condition at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd and late Sunday was airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital, said Sandy Remington, patient care coordinator at St. Joseph's Medical Center.
"Her parents ask that people pray for her," Remington said.
Baxter resident Jake Luoma was having a picnic nearby with family and friends. He said the 6-year-old girl, about 10 of her friends, her family and other adults had been playing at the park and swimming at the beach in celebration of the girl's birthday. One of the park's picnic tables was loaded with birthday cake, food, presents and balloons.
Luoma said the girl had been in the lake for 10-15 minutes when someone noticed her floating face down. He heard her parents scream and saw someone carrying the girl out of the water before he realized what had happened.
Luoma and several others ran to the beach and tried to resuscitate the girl while others called 911. Emergency personnel arrived about 15 minutes later and continued revival efforts on the beach as family members stood in shock and in tears nearby.
"How sad," Luoma said while watching paramedics work about 50 yards away.
Remington said the girl was brought in as a near-drowning victim and recovered to critical condition at St. Joseph's Medical Center.
Aside from the two families, there were few others at the beach Sunday night, Luoma said. After emergency personnel arrived, several people walked or drove to the beach and stood near the restroom pavilion to watch as emergency personnel worked. North Ambulance personnel continued resuscitation efforts from the beach into the ambulance. Baxter police officers gave family members a ride to the hospital.
When the girl was loaded into the North ambulance, most bystanders also left, many in tears. Luoma said he had planned to have a campfire at the beach Sunday, but said he was too sick following the tragic event.
Whipple Lake had played host to the Kiwanis Kids Triathlon Saturday afternoon and the Lakes Country Triathlon Sunday. The lake was calm and the sky clear and bright Sunday night. No lifeguard was on duty Sunday.
In addition to North Ambulance, Baxter police officers and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Boat and Water Patrol, with a boat launched just off the beach, were at the park. Baxter Police Sgt. Vic Sofie said the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department would be investigating the incident.
"These are always difficult but basically we've got to be professional and at our best," Sofie said late Sunday. "I'm just glad to hear they had vital signs on her."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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