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Benidji, MN – A father’s sailboat ride for his three young children turned deadly when – after the craft capsized – the four tumbled into a frigid northern Minnesota Lake. Two of the children are now dead and the third remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Dan Risland, 31, had reporedly taken his sons, 8-year-old Isaiah, 6-year-old Zech, and 2-year-old Jacob, out on his new sailboat Friday afternoon on Clearwater Lake in far Northern Minnesota. According to reports, ice had only recently melted off the lake.

Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson said that, at about 3 p.m., strong winds tipped the boat and ‘threw them into the water.’ Risland was reported to have tried to reach his sons – all of whom were wearing life jackets – but he struggled in the wind and waves. The sheriff said that the father was becoming hypothermic, so he told Isaiah to watch his brothers while he swam to shore for help.

According to police, by the time authorities arrived, the boys had been in the 40-degree water for about an hour. The two younger boys died of hypothermia. At last report, Isaiah Risland remained at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis in critical condition. The latest word from the family is that they are ‘hopeful, but not optimistic’ about his recovery.

I cannot imagine this man’s suffering.  Regardless, I am still dumbfounded by instances where parents place their kids in situations where – if everything goes absolutely right – those kids might remember the situation as mildly pleasant. …but if any of the 18 million things that could go wrong, do go wrong, the entire family will be mired in memories of tragedy and despair for eternity. Objectively, that is never a good bet.

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  • cielodrive

    Sounds suspicious to me. Sad.

  • GGMon

    yeah i’m wondering why he would leave them in freezing water? If the boat was turned over, couldn’t he just place the kids on the boat and then swim to get help?

  • Wolf_of_Mars

    At best, another horrifying example of what can happen when parents impress their own ideas of what fun is upon too-young children…  Like some fool taking a 3-year-old rock climbing.  Bleedin’ idiot!

  • annagg

     “but if any of the 18 million things that could go wrong, do go wrong, the entire family will be mired in memories of tragedy and despair for eternity.”

    Exactly! That is why I keep my kids home and we watch TV. It is just too risky…And that was only mildly sarcastic…My daughter doesn’t leave the yard without one of us. And my 11 year olds have to stay within 5 houses from us. There are 6 year olds with more freedom than them.

  • kimbev69

    Why didnt he have someone to help with three kids like umm mom? Wth i find this suspicious, they need to check if he had life insurance

  • Spifftastic

     Not always. If it completely turns over, which after a massive gust it might just do, you can’t stand on the rudder to flip it back over because it recedes into the boat. This happened to me on a really windy day when I took lessons way back in the day. It took 4 adult sailing instructors to finally get it back up. I guess it’s possible something was sketchy here but to me it sounds like a tragic accident.

  • kniption

    I am guessing that he simply ended up downwind of them or separated by some distance.   
    Due to circumstances I never care to repeat, I once ended up treading water far too far out in Lake Michigan at night, in a storm, and without a life jacket.  Ahhh, treasured high school memories.
    Anyway…  you would be shocked – SHOCKED – at how little movement you can get in open water in the face of any winds, currents, and especially when at all cold.  Add clothing and a life jacket to that, and his slow road out may very well have been a one-way street.  

  • Tenbux

    On the positive side for any Minnesota readers, there may be a slightly used boat with a really low asking price on the market soon!

  • kniption

    “That is why I keep my kids home and we watch TV.”
    …and risk heart disease?!?  If only that was a joke.

    Your rules do not seem out of line.  But I was not advocating tethering, necessarily.  I am simply saying that things like putting a 2-year-old on the back of a snowmobile or mini-ATV is nuts.  This video that I posted in the forums a short time back sums up my concern nicely…


  • DangerousKindOfSnark

    I bet that’s an interesting story, you’re lucky you’re alive. 
    Cold water is a killer. The reason it’s so hard to swim in cold water is that the exercise expands to blood vessels to deliver more oxygen to your muscles which increases heat loss. The swimming motion also increases convective heat loss, thereby cooling the nerve and muscle fibers which makes swimming and breath coordination more difficult and exhausting.
    Sadly, those children were much dead the moment the boat capsized. I’m honestly surprised the father lived. I completely agree with your assessment of the situation that is was not a good idea to bring the kids out on the boat. 

  • sugarpie

    I will just never understand putting your children in a dangerous situation on purpose. 

  • Zazen

    The real tragedy here is that they might all be alive had they been in rear facing car seats.

  • I would hate to be one of your kids.

  • Castille

    There’s inherent danger in all sorts of things… so I’m not one for avoiding all danger in the interest of safety.  But taking a sailboat out in water that cold with 3 small children?  It utterly baffles me.  A sailor ought to know both how deadly cold water is, and how tippy sailboats can be. I took a toddler boating into the North Atlantic once, and even in the summertime, I understood that between being underway and the water temperature, going in would be a death sentence. Now, we were on a 120ft ship, but this meant she never saw the deck again until we were docked.  Maybe dude thought that if the boat tipped he could get it righted again pretty easily.  By himself. With 3 small children in tow.  And this being his brand new boat.  Nm, I’m right back to ‘what was he thinking?’  Imagine he’ll be asking that same question the rest of his life, so no sense harping on it.

  • DangerousKindOfSnark

    I can’t stop laughing. I’m in restaurant looking like a fool right now.

  • girlygerd

    Omg hahaha

  • JohnQknowitall

    Famous and tragic words: It will never happen to me (us).

  • JohnQknowitall

    They are safe, but is living in fear worth that level of safety?

  • JohnQknowitall

    I have been on boats (not ships) in some risky places in the world. Wind is always a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous factor. This fun time was definitely not well thought out.

    Oh to have to live with this… I feel barely an ounce of the father’s pain and I could not live well with it for the rest of my life. He may learn to deal with the pain, but it can never be an easy truce. 

  • kniption

    This is interesting.  It does not seem to me to be unnecessarily unreasonable that – as a matter of policy – an 11-year-old be required to inform his parents that they are going beyond a 5-house radius before doing so.  Is it Draconian and I am just not seeing it?

  • Heather_Habilatory

    I think the fabulous weather we have been having up this way has fooled many people into thinking it’s nicer than it really is, especially on the water.

  • annagg

     Yeah, I would hate to have an ugly ass kid like you, so it is mutual.

  • FrikkenFrak

    What part of the story amused you???

  • annagg

     Actually, my kids are very active, I was messing around. I read this site and other news and I am scared as hell some asshole is going to try to kill or stick their dick in one of them. I try to keep them safe from predators at all costs. They play all day outside, until dark. Then they do their homework or watch TV after dark. Virtually no TV in the daylight, especially in the summer because we can’t even seen the screen with the sun shining in through the patio, bay window and skylight. And my boys have light strike battles and look at the stars after dark, they just have to do it from our hill. We don’t even have cable.

    My 11 year old twins wear a size 10 pant, and you can see about 3 ribs. My daughter is 8 and can wear size 4T shorts and pants (like capri’s) though she needs the length of 9’s, since she is tall and she is outside in the pool so much in the summer that she is still tan all winter. And my youngest just turned 3, but he is the weight and height of a 5 year old. Smart as hell, but can’t talk for crap. He is working on it, and doing much better. He’s one of those perfectionists that doesn’t want to say it until he can say it right, so he signs. They are all very healthy and fit.

    While I don’t let me kids run around the whole neighborhood, we turned the yard into a paradise with 2 huge wooden play-sets, a pool, a half pipe, and a climbing tree. We sled our hill in winter, water slide it in the summer and have bonfires in the spring and summer. We are building a deck and tree house this year. And have apple and pear trees. My kids have huge parties, and everyday we have a dozen kids in our yard.

    My kids have it 1000 times better than me, and while my childhood was messed up, I am a reasonably well adjusted, financially stable, happily married woman.

  • annagg

     I had a long reply to your other post, so I’ll spare you with this one, but I don’t think it is at all Draconian. I know the trouble I got into at that age, and they are still very small and immature, and easily influenced by others. I want them to outlive me at all costs, even if they live in the basement until they are 25. I think staying where i can see them is a reasonable compromise.

  • annagg

     Absolutely! I don’t want some asshole putting my kids on the front page of Dreaming Demon. They are small and fragile and I can’t live without them.

  • midniteshadows

    Unfortunately, it happens way too often here in Minnesota.  I swear to God, a majority of Minnesotans have major brain farts 90% of the time.

    A couple years back, a 17 y/o kid was snow mobiling (sp?) on the lake, at night, with a bunch of friends.  He decides to take off across the lake.  It was a few hours later that his friends noticed he hadn’t returned; so they followed his tracks right to open water.

    My landlord, being a member of one of the few families that are allowed to seine the waters, assisted fire and rescue by seining the open waters for him.  Pulled him and the snowmobile up in the nets. 

    A friend of ours with 50+ years of trapping, hunting and fishing fell through the ice and nearly died.

    Just because the ice is gone, doesn’t mean the water is warm.  Hell, even in summer there are spots on many of the lakes where the water is 40 degrees or less.

    The sad part, is that this could have all been prevented.   

  • onlyme356

    So he told the 8 year old to look after the two younger ones and that he’d be right back? I’m wondering why if….nevermind. I’m sure he tried his best.

  • JGo555

    :/ I think this dude did that on purpose…

    NO ONE in their right mind would do something like that in that type of weather. If he lived in Fl, where the temps are always in the 70’s then maybe but in MINNESOTA!?

    I wonder if the kids had life policies…

  • JGo555


  • JGo555

    Leo let go of the door, and Cate was on it. DIDN’T HE SEE THE DAMNED ENDING!?

  • Castille

    Clearly you overindulge your children and underfeed them all at the same time.

  • Castille

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  😉

  • I live in Bemidji (ftfy) about 30 mile away and u would have too suicidal to be out on the lakes right now, homicidal if you bring children along.  

  • annagg

    Haha! I was about to try not to freak out! I seriously feed my kids as often as I can. They eat a granola bar, then school breakfast, they have a snack when they get home, I prepare as many whole foods as I can, and serve vegetables with every meal, though we have pizza once a week. I always offer my kids as much food as I can, and encourage them to eat more. They are just thin. I give them a lot of dairy, meat and peanut butter. They are really solid feeling and have big feet, so I don’t worry, I k ow they’ll grow eventually. They were 9 weeks early and almost died, so thin is better than nothing.

  • lespacino

    I’m wondering why he couldn’t link the kids to him and swim them all in. If I’m dumb enough to be out there in the first place, I’m not leaving them out there to die alone.

  • HarleyJQuinne

    Exactly what part of this sounded like a good idea? I’m sure maybe the 8y/o could appreciate the idk what the hell there is to appreciate about being on a sailboat honestly but a 6 & 2y/o don’t seem like the age to be entertained by such a thing. I mean the motion sickness alone would dissuade me from wanting to take them out on a boat at such an age.
    Talk about bad fucking judgment. I wonder where mom was when this happened?

  • Sam

    Kids can be like that. The amount of food my 3 and 5 year old can put away baffles me, but they’re skinny tall creatures. Heavy, mind you – it always cracks me up when someone who doesn’t expect it tries to lift them up or something and damn near collapses under their weight… 😉

  • Andy P

     I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph in the article.  I think of things in a risk / reward fashion myself.  If the reward isn’t huge and there is any serious risk, probably better to just watch TV.  🙂

  •  Sailboats are known for tipping over,what this man did -taking babies out in conditions like this – was just plain STUPID.Kids are dead,and hurting ’cause Dad was an idiot.

  • DangerousKindOfSnark

    Crap and hell. This was supposed to be in response to Zazen’s post up above, “The real tragedy here is that they might all be alive had they been in rear facing car seats.” I usually don’t use my phone for posting, but it was too damn funny. Unfortunately, my phone just updated to the Ice Cream Sandwich OS and I am still getting used to it, hence the mispost.

  • DangerousKindOfSnark

    I can’t stop laughing. I’m in restaurant looking like a fool right now.

  • DangerousKindOfSnark

    Uggg, AT fucking V’s, one of boys gets young kids in the ER at least once a week from an ATV injury.

  • Zazen

    Then I would say my job here is done, but damn it, they keep posting more articles.

  • annagg

     Exactly! As skinny as my kids are, they are heavy. and feel solid, and firm. Picking up the baby is like picking up a 5 gallon jug of water. I have degenerative disc disease, so I have him climb on the chair and jump for me to hold him, or get in his high chair. I used to volunteer to watch the kids at my church a couple times a month, and there were kids that felt squishy like a sack of pudding and weighed nothing, what is up with that? In my mind, they were fed junk food all day (empty calories).

  • Sam

    I suspect you’re probably right. Friends of mine sometimes comment on my boys’ appetite and how they can’t get their own child / children to eat anything – then i’ll watch them letting their kids munch on crap all afternoon. Well of course they’re not going to be hungry if you keep filling them up with sugar and trans fats! I guess some people’s common sensometer is either broken or just never worked in the first place.

  • tdavid6

    He might have taken a move from Josh Powell’s playbook (take a 3 & 5 year old out camping at 2 in the morning, in the freezing weather for no apparent reason at all). Except we all know what the reason was in that case…

  • Edward Richtofen

    he tried to kill them. He left his 2 year old child in the water? When a parent lives at the expense of their child something is fishy.

  • minjofu

    I know.. I was thinking the same thing..  I live just north of minneapolis, and the lakes don’t warm up until June..  Even then it’s a little nippy in places..   You’d have to be utterly retarded to bring babies out on the water in early/mid spring..  

  • MzJask

    sounds fishy to me.

  • observant_cat

    I agree. I’m from neighboring WI originally. Anyone who lives up there knows the dangers of cold water.
    Years ago my parents were snowmobiling with another couple when their friends went through the ice, snowmobile and all. Fortunately they were able to get out and quickly got to a nearby house, but that story impressed upon me how dangerous partially frozen or really cold lakes could be.
    I was about 5 and i understood that. I think someone who knows enough to put the kids in life jackets and bought (not rented) a new (meaning at least one prior to this one) sailboat that lives in northern MN knew better than to take his children out in those conditions. Something here doesn’t sound right.

  • They are divorced…that is why their mom wasn’t there to help out

  • mgilseth

    That any of you thought this amusing makes me absolutely sick. I know the family. Did he make a terrible judgement call yes. Do you think he doesn’t think of this every day. He had full custody of his children did everything with them. He never drinks ever. I’ve seen him have one year in the eight years I’ve known him. Do you have no heart no god inside of you reading all if this brought tears to my eyez no compassion or heart in any of you. Terrible ungodly people.

  • mgilseth

    Thank you for being courteous