RAPIDAN — Authorities suspect alcohol was a factor in a drowning Tuesday on the Blue Earth River near the Rapidan Dam Park.
That and the fact the victim wasn’t wearing a life jacket are prompting water safety warnings from the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Department with summer approaching.
Chief Deputy Mike Maurer of the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Department estimated the water temperature in the river was around 60 degrees when 21-year-old Jenny Mae Kraling of Mankato and three friends went tubing Tuesday afternoon. She was swimming in the river above a 20-foot deep hole when she was pulled under by swirling current at about 3 p.m. Her body was recovered four hours later.
“It’s still pretty cold,” Capt. Rich Murry said Wednesday. “Our diver said it was about 70 degrees and Maurer guessed it was in the 50s or 60s. It wouldn’t take long for someone to be overcome in those temperatures.”
Investigators won’t know how much alcohol was in Kraling’s system until toxicology tests are completed, but initial interviews with her three friends suggest she had been drinking, Murry said.
None of the four tubers was wearing a life jacket as they headed out on to the river, which was moving quickly because the Rapidan Dam about a mile up river was letting through a large amount of water at the time.
Kraling’s friends were brought back to shore by rescue boats while deputies and volunteers from several agencies searched for her.
“You can never say never, but we feel if she had a life preserver with her she’d still be with us,” Murry said. “People should also use common sense. Alcohol and water sports are not a good combination.”
It’s also wise to consider how much water is flowing through the dam before heading out on the Blue Earth River, Murry said. There are several rapids and sharp bends that can become difficult to maneuver when the water is flowing fast.