Affinity Plus Duluth branch responds to lake-drowning tragedy with donation to Duluth Fire Department for cold-water rescue suits

DULUTH, Minn. (Sept. 22, 2017) - Amanda Bruggman and her Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union team in Duluth figured it was time to help the people who never hesitate to help their community.

This week, Bruggman presented to the Duluth Fire Department a $1,500 Affinity Plus donation to help pay for three additional cold-water-rescue suits. Overall, that’s half the number the department wants for their agency.

In addition, the suits will be sized for smaller firefighters so that those rescuers will be safer and are better able to maneuver in the often-dangerous Lake Superior waters.

The department currently has only one such cold-water-rescue suit in one fire truck for the entire city. The Affinity Plus funding means suits can be spread across the city in other stations and response vehicles, officials said.

Just as importantly, it helps the department free up some funding as it continues its effort to budget for, and raise outside funding for, additional custom-fit suits that can be used in other rescue efforts in all seasons.

“It was actually very emotional to present the check, in part because as a branch and as area residents we understand it’s not really about giving the money,” Bruggman said of her meeting earlier this week at a fire station with Fire Chief Denny Edwards and firefighter Captain Kevin Haney. “We want to partner with the fire department to provide thoughtful, practical help so that they can continue to protect the community.”

Like many Duluth-area residents, Bruggman said she and her team were moved by the tragic mid-August story of a father and daughter who died while swimming in Lake Superior. The pair was swimming near Park Point Beach House when the daughter was drug out by rip currents. The father attempted to save his daughter, and both perished.

Haney was one of many who attempted the water rescue, but he struggled in the larger suit. At one point, a large wave hit the firefighter and he ingested water twice as he tried to continue. Both Haney and Edwards said the large, buoyant suit the rescuer wore isn’t meant for near-beach rescues.

New, better-fitting suits for Haney and other rescuers will improve their ability to respond now, even as they continue to plan for optimal, custom-fit dry suits for other seasons.

Edwards said the department appreciates the donation because “it can help make us more effective at what we do. For 27 years, I’ve watched firefighters do whatever it takes to do the job. Through their generosity, Affinity Plus absolutely will help us do it more safely.”

Edwards said he welcomes conversations with other community groups or institutions that would like to contribute to the Duluth Fire Department’s ability to respond in emergencies.

The Duluth branch of Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union is located at 1301 Miller Trunk Highway, and can be reached at (218) 722-4004.


– Duluth Fire Department officials thank Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Duluth branch staff for their donation this week. Local staff presented firefighters more than $1,500 to help pay for three additional cold-water-rescue suits. The donation was in response to a mid-August tragedy in Lake Superior when a father and daughter perished in dangerous rip currents and strong waves. Pictured, left to right: Firefighter Damon Laurion; branch manager Amanda Bruggman; member advisor Sydney Perrett; and firefighter Kevin Haney.