Valley teenager drowns trying to cross St. Croix channel

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

HUDSON, Wis. – A Lake Elmo teenager drowned Monday evening trying to cross a swift moving St. Croix River channel from the Wisconsin side to the Minnesota side of the river off a riverfront park here.

Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen identified the victim as 18-year-old Alexander Cook. Jensen added that Cook was wearing blue jeans, not a swimsuit or shorts, when he tried swimming across the channel.

Jensen said Hudson police were called about 5 p.m. Monday to the end of Dike Road in Lakeside Park. There, witnesses told officers Cook tried to cross the St. Croix River channel and began struggling in the water about 50 yards out.

"The river is up and he was trying to cross the channel and it has a pretty strong current," Jensen said.

Lakeside Park has two swimming beaches, according to Jensen. The official, monitored beach is by the park bathhouse, he said. There is another sandy beach area with no lifeguards at the end of the dike where people also swim.

Jensen said the majority of people at the beach by the dike stay out of the channel. Cook ventured out into the channel, the chief added.

"He was on the channel side and it drops off out there," Jensen said.

Some of Cook’s friends tried to help him, but Cook slipped under the water, according to Jensen.

Personnel from St. Croix EMS/Rescue and the Lower St. Croix Valley, Mahtomedi and Scandia Fire departments arrived on scene to attempt a rescue, but river conditions prevented divers from finding Cook’s body, an HPS statement said. The St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office took over recovery operations.

Washington County Sheriff’s deputies and a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden aided SCCSO deputies in the search. Recovery crews located Cook’s body in the river using side-imaging sonar and divers recovered the teen’s body about 11:45 p.m. Monday, Jensen said.

Despite the strong current in the channel, Cook’s body was recovered near where he went under water.

"They found him right where he went down," the chief said.

The St. Croix County Medical Examiner took Cook’s body from the scene by to a Hudson funeral home, Jensen said. Blood samples were taken from the body, but no autopsy is planned, the chief added.

"It does not appear that alcohol or drugs were involved," Jensen said.

And with the St. Croix River level expected to rise from recent heavy rains, Jensen said the currents make swimming in the channel dangerous.

"We don’t recommend swimming across the channel," he said.