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Isanti County man jumps into action to help save drowning neighbor

A kayaker surveying flood damage was rescued from the Rum River Tuesday night after a nearby neighbor leapt into action.

ISANTI COUNTY, Minn. — Snow melt and recent heavy rains have lead to flooded back yards along the Rum River in Isanti County.  

"That out there on the left where the woods are, it's got to be probably 15, maybe 20 feet deep," explained Janet Shaak as she walked around her Athens Township backyard. 

The depths of the standing water nearly claimed the life of Shaak’s husband Aaron Tuesday night, after the U.S. Army veteran hopped in a kayak heading towards the river. 

"He wanted to see how bad the flood damage on our property was," said Shaak. 

The damage wasn’t significant, but the price Aaron nearly paid with his life was. 

"I came out on the deck, I saw my kayak out here floating, but my husband wasn’t there," said Janet. "He got caught in a current and it rolled him in the kayak.”

Janet says while she couldn’t see Aaron through the brush and murky water, she could hear him. 

"He said I need help, I'm drowning. He said I don’t know how much longer I can hold on," said Shaak. She went on to say, "he had water in his lungs, his CO2 level was terrible, he had to have oxygen.”

What Aaron needed more was next door neighbor Micah Caron, who quickly leapt into action and risked his own life to help save his neighbor. 

"There [were] two trees, he was holding onto one and there was another split off, and I just kind of grappled that tree and kind of gave him a little seat to get some weight, and I held him around the chest," said Caron. "We were both getting tired, he was obviously tired.”

After getting Aaron situated and in as safe a spot as possible, Caron swam back into shore. 

"I am very thankful for that man, I really am," said Janet, sharing that Micah was in the water for about an hour keeping her husband's head above water. 

Rescue crews reached Aaron after about 45 minutes, and Isanti Fire Chief Al Jankovich was able to carry him to safety.

"He started to walk up the bank and then he collapsed," Janet recalled. 

As of Wednesday night, Aaron is recovering at a hospital in the Twin Cities and is expected to be released tomorrow. 

Doctors want to monitor him in case of a lung infection or pneumonia.

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