Arlington Heights Mom Dies Saving Drowning Child in Star Lake, Plum Lake Wisconsin

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An Arlington Heights single mother of two died Tuesday after rescuing up to three children Star Lake in northern Wisconsin lake to rescue the 9-year-old godson of her friend. She died while holding up the third child, who was having trouble staying above the surface.

Karen Wessel, 47, was vacationing with her son, her sister, a friend, and two other children in the Star Lake in Plum Lake, Wisconsin when the three children were swimming across a channel from a sandbar back to the shore. About 12:40 p.m. Tuesday one or more of the children started to struggle in the water, and Karen Wessel and her sister, Janice Potocki, also of Arlington Heights, swam out to rescue them. They immediately rescued two of the children.

Wessel then swam to her friend’s 9-year-old godson, got underneath him, and was able to hold the boy above the surface. Nearby boaters were able to pull the boy out of the water, but they were not able to rescue Karen Wessel in time.

An eight or nine-year-old boy, presumably the boy she saved, was transported to Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff, Wisconsin about 15 miles from Star Lake.

Karen Wessel was recovered by a pontoon boat operator, who performed CPR while he brought her in to the East Star Lake Boat Landing, and while the boy she rescued hung on to the pontoon boat. Rescue units were waiting on scene at the landing. Wessel was transported by a medical transport helicopter to Aspirus Wausau Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 5:20 p.m. on Tuesday, according to police. An initial report stated that she was believed to be a “near drowning” victim who was rescued by the boaters.

Plum Lake Fire Department, Plum Lake Ambulance, St. Germain Rescue, Boulder Junction Rescue, Boulder Junction Ambulance, Howard Young Medical Center Med 4 and Med 5 ambulances, Aspirus Medevac, Wisconsin DNR, Vilas County Emergency Management and the Vilas County Sheriff’s Department all responded to the call.

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Wessel is survived by her sister, Janice Potocki, her 9-year-old son, Michael and 17-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

Wessel, who lived near Pioneer Park, was active at Westgate Elementary School and Rolling Meadows High School, where her children attended school.

On Thursday, July 11, 2014 two Arlington Heights boys were injured when they were tubing and crashed into a pontoon boat in Little Star Lake in Manitowish Waters, which is about 25 miles west of Star Lake in Plum Lake, Wisconsin.

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