Lifeguards return to some Minneapolis beaches, but authorities still urge extra caution

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Lifeguards returned to weekend duty at three Minneapolis beaches on Saturday after multiple water rescues and one drowning in the city earlier in the week.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner identified the victim as Mickenzie Tyler Martin, 19, of Santa Clara, Calif. He was one of two men firefighters pulled from the water off of Bde Maka Ska’s Thomas Beach on Tuesday. The other man was treated and released from Hennepin County Medical Center.

Man hospitalized after water rescue at Bde Maka Ska dies

There were two other near-drownings of a man and a woman at Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Falls on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both people were last reported in stable but critical condition.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner at Large Meg Forney told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that discussions about bringing back lifeguards were already underway before the series of recent incidents, but that they highlighted the need to take action. 

“It’s just very apparent that we need to be able to look out for everybody’s public safety,” Forney said.

Water rescues performed at Bde Maka Ska, Lake Nokomis Tuesday evening

For now, lifeguards will be posted at Bde Maka Ska’s Thomas Beach, Lake Nokomis Main Beach, and Wirth Lake Beach from noon to 7 p.m. on the weekends. The park board says it will add lifeguards at Cedar Lake East Beach and Lake Harriet North Beach by July 2nd.

Lifeguards will stay an extra hour, until 8 p.m., if the temperature is still 85 degrees or higher at 6 p.m.

The park board had previously said there would be no lifeguards at beaches this summer, citing a lack of available training due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now the board is looking to bring back lifeguards who have already worked for the MPRB and are certified. 

Some people using the beaches on Saturday welcomed the return of the lifeguards.

“With two little ones, you keep your eye on them as much as possible, but something can always happen,” said mother Jessie Mash of Minneapolis.

However, the city still has seven beaches that remain without lifeguards on duty. Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson issued a warning on Friday urging people to use extra caution.

“It is critical to understand that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most beaches are not staffed by professional lifeguards. We urge everyone to study basic water safety techniques, especially those who are not strong swimmers or have not had formal swimming training,” Hutchinson said in a statement.

A message mother Sara Hardwig says she’s taken to heart as she talks to her son and daughter.

“That they have both a respect for the water, kind of the dangers about it — she knows the word ‘drown,’" Hardwig said. "We talked very directly with her about how dangerous the water can be."