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Father, daughter recall trying to rescue man who drowned in Lake Minnetonka

The Excelsior City Council will now address the incident Tuesday and plan to discuss options to make the area more safe.

EXCELSIOR, Minn. — Two people who tried to save a man from drowning at an Excelsior beach are now speaking out.

Gwin and Erin Pratt say Ben Garcia didn't have to die if the right safety equipment had been on hand.

The father and daughter were at Commons Beach on Thursday evening when they heard someone yelling for help from the water. 

"There was a man holding a raft and I ran up screaming, and grabbed it from him and sprinted to the point and jumped in and started swimming," said Erin. 

Garcia's family identified Ben last week. They said Ben was 26 years old and his fiancé was due with their first child any day. They also said he likely walked out too far and wasn't wearing a life jacket.  

Erin gave the only raft she found to Garcia's friend, who was also struggling to swim. Her next decision weighs heavily on her and her father.

"My training from years ago as a lifeguard told me that I would be in serious danger of drowning myself if I approached a drowning person without any sort of floatation device," said Erin. 

"If they can’t afford or can’t access lifeguards, then get equipment out for people like Erin, especially, or someone as old as me," said Gwin. "We might have been able to save this guy."

RELATED: DNR, doctors issue warnings over recent water-related deaths

He said the wind that day was too strong, rescue boats too far away and without any safety equipment readily available, the rescue turned to a recovery. 

"It didn't have to be that way, and it doesn't take that big of an investment by cities like Excelsior," said Gwin. 

There are now two ring buoys at the beach that were added since Thursday.

Excelsior Mayor Todd Carlson will address the incident at Tuesday's city council meeting. Councilmember Jennifer Caron says they will also discuss options like adding lifeguards and warning signs.

Gwin and Erin say they'll be there. 

"Let's take care of people on our beaches and lakes, and be safe," said Gwin, who says he and Erin have survivor's guilt. 

"I’m so sorry I couldn’t get there in time," said Erin. 

When the Excelsior City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., Caron says nothing is off the table when it comes to making the area safer. It will be the first in-person meeting since the pandemic.

RELATED: Man dies while swimming near William O'Brien State Park

RELATED: 9-year-old dies of apparent drowning at Woodbury lake

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