One person was killed and four others were hospitalized on Saturday after they were stabbed in their mid-sections while tubing on the Apple River in Wisconsin, a popular summer spot that attracts visitors from across the region, the authorities said.
The suspect, a 52-year-old man from Prior Lake, Minn., had left the scene but was taken into custody after a witness identified him at a point where tubers on the river exit, said Sheriff Scott Knudson of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office.
The authorities did not release the names of the victims or the suspect. One of the victims, a 17-year-old from Stillwater, Minn., was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. Four additional victims were said to be in critical condition on Saturday but by Sunday were in stable condition, the authorities said.
The injured were described as two men ages 20 and 22 from Luck, Wis.; a woman, 24, from Burnsville, Minn.; and a 22-year-old man from Elk River, Minn., Sheriff Knudson said in a statement on Sunday.
A motive in the stabbings was not immediately clear, and the authorities said they did not know whether the suspect knew the victims.
“I have not seen anything like this to this extent,” Sheriff Knudson said of the stabbings.
He said that in Somerset, the western Wisconsin town near the border with Minnesota where the stabbing occurred, tubing “is our main attraction.”
Around 3:45 p.m., the authorities received several calls about a stabbing on the Apple River, a tributary to the St. Croix River and an area popular among tubers and campers who visit from nearby St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The river is accessible by road, but the stabbings occurred in a harder-to-reach area farther up the river from where the deputies arrived, so they waded about 100 yards through waist-deep water to reach the victims, Sheriff Knudson said. First responders then treated the victims with the help of other tubers.
Several companies offer tubing on the area’s rivers. For about $20, a person can take a shuttle up the river and be dropped off with an inflatable tube to float back down, which takes about two and a half hours, according to one company.
One of the businesses, River’s Edge Apple River Campground, said on its website on Sunday that it would pause tubing services for the day as the sheriff’s office continued to investigate. The company did not immediately return phone and email messages.
“For more than a half century, the Apple River has been known for its beautiful setting and summer fun,” River’s Edge said in its statement. “Tens of thousands of visitors annually — millions in total — have enjoyed floating the river with family and friends. Yesterday, an act of violence shattered that serenity.”
In a news conference on Saturday, Sheriff Knudson called the events “chaotic” and “scary.”
“I’m sure that anybody who witnessed this will never forget it,” he said. “It is a tragedy.”
He added that officials were interviewing witnesses and that he expected charges to be filed early in the week.