6-year-old boy drowns after falling through ice

The Aitkin County Sheriff's Office responded to the incident, reported at 1:36 p.m. Sunday, March 12, in rural McGrath.

Aitkin County Squad winter

MCGRATH — A 6-year-old boy died Sunday, March 12, after he fell through the ice in Aitkin County.

A Facebook post from the East Central School District identified the boy as first-grade student Owen Benjamin.

The Aitkin County Sheriff's Office responded to the incident, reported at 1:36 p.m. in rural McGrath. According to the report, Benjamin was next to a dock on a small lake in an area normally used as an ice-skating rink, but it was covered with snow. He was found and removed from the waist-deep water by a family member.

Benjamin was found not breathing, and CPR was started.

Multiple agencies were dispatched to the location, and lifesaving efforts were continued. Approximately 14 inches of fresh snow compounded response problems, and a snowmobile was needed to transport the boy to an ambulance waiting on a navigable road.


Lifesaving efforts were continued until after 4 p.m., when Benjamin was pronounced dead in the emergency room. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the cause of death as freshwater drowning.

“This particular incident is just a freak accident, and it highlights that ice is never safe,” said Dan Guida, Aitkin County sheriff.

A fundraiser for Benjamin on Spotfund, a donation platform, said: “Owen was such a sweet little boy and had the heart of his Mom. He was so caring and loving.” The fund had raised $7,150 from 93 donors as of Wednesday morning.

An obituary for Benjamin said a funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 16, at the Aazhoomog Community Center, located at 45749 Grace Lake Road in Sandstone. Burial will take place at the Danbury Cemetery in Danbury, Wisconsin.

Assisting at the scene were the McGregor Fire and Rescue, the McGrath Fire Department, McGrath First Responders and Mora Ambulance.
McGrath is southeast of Aitkin and east of Mille Lacs Lake.

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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