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2015 story: Man pulled from Vermillion River dies

Two quick-thinking middle school students and a fast response from Farmington police were not able to save the life of a man who wound up in the Vermillion River near downtown Farmington April 30. The man, identified as 47-year-old Daniel Schally of Apple Valley, was not breathing when sergeant Lee Hollatz pulled him out of the water shortly after 2:30 p.m. Paramedics were able to get a heart rhythm back, but the man did not regain consciousness before dying over the weekend. Schally might not have had even that much chance if not for two students who noticed something unusual and decided to say something. The boys, who police could not identify but who were named in a television news report as John Gray and Matthew McGee, were on their way home from Dodge Middle School when they first saw Schally. They were walking across a railroad trestle that crosses both the river and a trail through Rambling River Park when they saw him lying on the bank of the river. They talked briefly with Schally and continued on their way, but something about the conversation stuck with them. “They just thought, he’s not acting right. He’s a little out of it,” police chief Brian Lindquist said. “They turned on their phone and gave us a call.”  The 911 dispatcher told the boys to go back to the school and wait for police, but when Hollatz looked for Schally he couldn’t find him. He asked the boys to point out exactly where they’d seen Schally and as they looked they found his cell phone, wallet and ring on the bank of the river. Then the boys saw Schally’s blue San Diego Chargers jersey floating six inches to a foot below the water.  Hollatz radioed for help and started preparing to go into the water. He took off his belt and gun and camera and handed one of the boys his radio with instructions on how to call for help if he disappeared under the water.  “I was down there, and you can’t see the bottom so you don’t know how deep it is,” Lindquist said. “If you get out there and the bottom’s soft and the current pushes you, what are you getting into?” Lindquist said several other students passed by Schally without doing anything. He gave the two boys who called police a lot of credit for helping them find the man.  “99 percent of people do (walk by). They don’t want to be involved,” he said. “For 13 and 14, that’s pretty darn impressive.” Police do not know exactly how Schally ended up in the river. The Dakota County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for investigating incidents that happen on the water and will investigate Schally’s death. Farmington police sergeant Jim Constantineau said foul play is not suspected.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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