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Family mourns SE Minnesota couple who died during Iceland fishing trip

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Brian Schumacher and Janet Veit
Brian Schumacher and Janet Veit had taken up fly fishing just a few years before they died after falling into an Icelandic lake on a fishing trip on Sunday, May 20, 2018, according to Veit's family.
Family photo

A dream fly fishing vacation has ended tragically in Iceland for a La Crescent, Minn., couple.

Janet Veit, a veterinarian in La Crosse, Wis., and her husband of 19 years, Brian Schumacher, were fishing in an Icelandic national park, about 30 minutes from Reykjavik on Sunday, according to Veit's sister, Patrice, of River Falls, Wis.

She said it wasn't entirely clear what happened, but that Schumacher and Veit were out with a party of anglers, that Schumacher apparently fell into deep water and was swept into the frigid lake and that Veit followed, trying to save him.

"The weather was bad, the rest of the party couldn't reach them," Patrice Veit said. She said some of the group went for help and found a resident nearby with a boat. "It was that fellow that went out and pulled them out of the water, but they could not be revived."

She said diplomatic staff from the U.S. embassy called her with the news on Sunday. Their bodies are to be flown home and funeral arrangements are pending.

Veit said her brother-in-law worked as a histologist for Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. She said the two met after Veit graduated from the U of M as a veterinarian and was working at her first job when Schumacher brought in his dog for treatment. They were married in October of 1999, she said.

The two were avid hunters, fishers and hikers, but only came to fly fishing in the last few years, Veit said.

Veterinarian Janet Veit, fishing in Iceland
Veterinarian Janet Veit, fishing in Iceland before she apparently drowned trying to save her husband in an Icelandic lake.
Family Photo

She said her sister sent a picture of a 27-inch brown trout she'd caught in Iceland. "I've never seen that woman smile so broadly as she did in that picture with that big brown trout."

She said her sister and brother-in-law also served as fly fishing guides in the La Crosse area.

The couple had no children but had a pointer and a pair of cats. Veit said her sister had registered the animals as therapy animals and traveled around the region to care facilities and schools to share her pets with students and the elderly.

"I'm sure they had no idea how beloved they were in their community," Veit said, noting the outpouring of well wishes and sorrow that followed news of their deaths on Facebook. "They were generous and giving people and mentors and they will be greatly missed. They were a very unique couple."