Camping Trip Tragedy: 'He Died Trying to Save Her'

August 11, 2017 08:31 PM

A father of two girls who ran into choppy Lake Superior water died trying to save his daughter, according to the girl's grandmother.

Ryan Fuglie, 38, and his daughter Lillian Fuglie, 10, were pronounced dead Thursday evening. The sheriff's office said they were overcome by the waves and current off of Duluth's Park Point late Thursday.


Ryan is from Osceola, Wisconsin, and Lillian lived in Hudson with her mom and sister.

"He just wanted a nice, fun camping trip with the girls before they went to school. He wanted them to enjoy the outdoors," said Tammi Schwinn, Ryan's mother and the girls' grandmother.

She said that all three were wading along the shore on Thursday when Lillian began to venture too far into the water, and Ryan went in after her.

Schwinn told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that Ryan went under first and Lillian a few moments later.

"He loved, loved, loved his girls. He did anything for them," she said. "It's just numbing, you can't wrap your head around it."

The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office said there was a red flag warning on the beach at the time, but Schwinn said when you're not from Duluth, you may not be aware of how serious it can be.

The family wants the public to know that Ryan's devotion and love for her girls' never wavered.

"He died trying to save his baby," she said.

Lillian's mother, Maggie Wacker-Fritze, spoke briefly to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Friday at her Hudson home.

She later released the following statement:

Lillian and Ryan (along with Lillian's 12 year old sister) were on a camping trip in the Duluth area before Lillian started 5th grade next week. Lillian was outgoing with a huge heart. Lillian had a beautiful voice and would sing at any chance she got. Lillian loved dressing up in big fancy dresses, doing her nails, and being the center of attention. She made everybody laugh with her "vlogs" and make-up tutorials. We would always find hundreds of selfies on our phones because Lillian loved to make us laugh. Lillian played soccer and always wanted to be active outside. Ryan was a loving, devoted father. Lillian always considered herself a "daddy's girl." Lillian was my beacon of light, and my "little cheeto."

The report of two missing swimmers initially came in at 4:26 p.m. According to the Duluth Fire Department's assistant chief, a girl reported her younger sister and father had not returned from swimming.

RELATED: 2 Swimmers Rescued From Lake Superior in Duluth

One firefighter was injured during the second rescue for the father. According to the fire department, the firefighter took in a "large amount of water as he successfully returned the victim to shore."

The fire department said the search was hampered by large swells near the shore.

The St. Louis County Sheriff's Department and Rescue Squad, Duluth Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard and Duluth Police Department assisted in the search and rescue.


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