8-year-old girl drowns while swimming in Minnesota River

22 July 2022

MANKATO, Minn. — An 8-year-old girl drowned Thursday evening while swimming in the Minnesota River.

According to the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office, a family with four children were swimming early in the evening in the river near a sandbar at Sibley Park. 

The children were initially wearing life jackets, but took them off as they continued to play. They jumped off the sandbar and started to experience deeper water, and two of them struggled, including the 8-year-old girl.

Crews search the river for the missing girl


A bystander jumped in to save the other child, but 8-year-old Willow Bense went underwater. The mother tried to help, but was swept downstream.

Crews were called to the scene shortly after 6 p.m. and started their search efforts. On Friday morning, they recovered the girl’s body further east down the river.

“It’s not the ending that we wanted to have happen,” said Paul Barta from the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Department. He noted that rivers are dangerous and unpredictable, and anyone swimming or kayaking on a river should be wearing a life jacket.

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Author: WCCO Staff

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