Youth workers drown saving child

JP: Sad news from Northern Minnesota. Please pray for this church and the families of the men who died.

Witnesses: 2 Sacrificed Lives To Save Drowning Boy


The bodies of two men who disappeared in wind-swept Pokegama Lake in Itasca County have been recovered. They are credited with rescuing a boy who was struggling in the lake before the two drowned.

The Itasca County Sheriff’s Office identified the two men as 30-year-old Nathan Randall Junker and 63-year-old Albert John Hermiston both of Grand Rapids.

According to the Itasca County Sheriff’s Department, they received a 911 call at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Paul Shorma and Kayla Domagall were amongst the crowd of 30 on the beach outside Zorbaz restaurant on the shore of Pokegama Lake when the call for help arrived.

According to witnesses, a group of young people were on a house boat on the lake, en route to a sandbar to swim.

That’s when witnesses say the weather turned and the waves on the lake grew to about 3-foot swells.

One youth was struggle with the waves when Junker and Hermiston went out to help him with a lifejacket.

The youth was able to make it to safety but both men didn’t make it back. Hermiston was found soon afterwards and was rushed back to the beach at Zorbaz.

“We all went and helped hold the boat along side the docks because the waves were so big that the boat was floating away. So we all pushed it up right against the dock so they could get the guy out as fast as they could,” said Shorma.

Rescue crews attempted to resuscitate Hermiston. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Junker’s body was recovered just before 8 p.m. Monday by the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team

Shorma and Domagall called both the men heroes who gave their lives to save a child. They say their sacrifice will always be remembered.

“They have so much bravery in their hearts and they were great role models for all of those kids. And it’s a great lesson to be learned from all of us. They were great men in the community,” said Domagall.

Both men were members of Faith Baptist Church in Grand Rapids. Junker was the youth minister

I watched WCCO reporting on this tonight. The young Pastor Junker (pronounced “Yunker”) leaves behind a young wife, three daughters and a baby boy! Please pray for this family!

A fund has been established for the Junger family. See the following for details:

Drowning victims’ friends and family call their actions “heroic”

“We at faith baptist church mourn with the families of Al Hermiston and Associate Pastor Nathan Junker, who died Sunday evening while doing what was their greatest passion, working with youth,” said Faith Baptist Church Pastor Paul Losik.

At the church where both men had served for years, their impact on others was summed up in a few words.

“If you had a need he would do his best to meet that and he would be there for you,” said Losik of Al Hermiston.

“No doubt in my mind, he puts others before himself,” said Timothy Junker, Nathan Junker’s brother.

Members of Faith Baptist Church say Nathan and Albert played many roles within their small church community, but their deaths are particularly devastating on their youth program.

“They’re pretty shaken up,” said Pastor Losik of the children who witnessed the accident. “They’re hurting.”

Relatives and friends are finding peace in Nathan and Alberts’ strong Christian faiths.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, I know where he is,” said Timothy Junker of his brother, Nathan. “And that’s comforting.”

“You always have to be prepared to meet our maker,” said Schultz “And these two gentlemen were very prepared.”

Pastor Paul Losik says youth who were at the scene of the drowning have already received some grief counseling.

He plans to set up more opportunities for the children to speak with counselors in the near future.

There is a memorial fund set up for the family of Nathan Junker, who leaves behind a wife and four children.

To donate, visit any Wells Fargo location or mail a check to:

Wells Fargo
220 NW 1st Ave
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

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