Updated: Albert Lea man recovered from Fountain Lake after apparent drowning

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

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An Albert Lea man was recovered Thursday in Fountain Lake after an apparent drowning near the Edgewater Bay boat landing.

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as 66-year-old Matthew Jay Anderson.

Freeborn County Sheriff Ryan Shea said after talking with Anderson’s family, authorities learned Anderson had plans to take the pontoon off the lake that morning and at this point it is assumed that when he backed the trailer up to the water to load the pontoon, that the pontoon somehow drifted away from him.

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“For some reason he ended up in the water as he was doing that and began to struggle,” Shea said.

Until the medical examiner’s report comes back, he said it is also unclear if Anderson may have had a medical incident.

Someone who lives nearby reportedly heard him yelling for help and rushed over on his own pontoon to help, but as soon as he dove into the water, Anderson went under the water and was not visible anymore.

Shea said dispatchers received a 911 call right before 11 a.m., and a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who was already out in a boat on the lake drove the boat to the area first and began looking.

Albert Lea Fire Rescue, Albert Lea Police Department, Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office and Minnesota State Patrol also responded, and arriving officers from the police and fire departments began dive searches in the area.

When they arrived, a vehicle and trailer were found on the ramp, and the pontoon had drifted south.

Shea said three boats were utilized in the search, from Albert Lea Fire Rescue, the DNR and the Sheriff’s Office, as well as underwater divers. They also utilized bottom drags off the boat in the search.

Utilizing side imaging technology, authorities ultimately found Anderson about 20 feet off the edge of the dock in about 8 1/2 feet of water, the sheriff estimated. Shea estimated Anderson had been under the water for about an hour when he was recovered.

One firefighter, Trevor DeRaad, was also transported by Mayo Ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea after getting stuck with one of the hooks from a drag.