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Colorado man dies after diving in BWCAW lake

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A 29-year-old Colorado man dove from a popular cliff-diving spot in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Wednesday and never surfaced.

Emergency crews from Lake and St. Louis counties found Chase Winkey on Thursday morning, 20 feet below the surface of Makwa Lake. His body was sent to the medical examiner in Hibbing for an autopsy.

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said Winkey was staying on nearby Little Saganaga Lake in a party of four people who were jumping off a cliff that is known for diving. The cliff is about 60 feet high and the water is deep. Johnson said Winkey may have landed awkwardly and had the wind knocked out of him. He said his brother was watching from a canoe when Winkey dove.

The other three people found another group that had a satellite phone. Lake County Search and Rescue team members received word about the accident at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Crews from both counties were dispatched immediately on two Beaver seaplanes to reach the lake. They used St. Louis County's remote-controlled submersible camera to locate Winkey on Thursday morning, Johnson said.

Johnson said he viewed YouTube videos of diving at Makwa and said some people dove with lifejackets on, a practice he recommended. Winkey was not wearing a lifejacket.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office, Lake County Search and Rescue, U.S. Forest Service and St. Louis County Search and Rescue were on the scene.

Makwa Lake is in the heart of the federal wilderness area, about 35 miles northeast of Ely. It's considered a daytrip lake from lake sites off the Gunflint Trail.