Quincy News

Search to resume Sunday on Mississippi River for missing Quincy boater

An unidentified woman surveys the Mississippi River below Lock and Dam 21 on Saturday after rescue crews began searching the river for a missing boater. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 15, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Oct. 15, 2017 1:17 am

QUINCY -- Emergency crews plan to return to the Mississippi River at daybreak Sunday to resume searching for a 19-year-old Quincy man who disappeared after a boat carrying three people and a dog capsized about 4 p.m. Saturday about three-quarters of a mile north of Lock and Dam 21.

The missing man was not wearing a life jacket.

The two other male passengers -- both wearing life jackets -- were rescued from the water while the dog swam to shore safely. However, rescue workers were unable to locate the third man despite an intensive search.

The search was finally suspended about 8 p.m. after the choppy river became enveloped in darkness, and a storm was moving in.

"It's not the best time to be on the water," said Eric Wheatley, an Illinois Conservation Police officer heading the investigation on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources. "As much as we'd like to be out there, Mother Nature has her own agenda."

Wheatley said the search would resume at daybreak and go as long as necessary.

"Right now it is still a search and rescue mission," Wheatley said. "We're not going to discount anything."

The capsizing happened shortly before 4 p.m. in an area south of the South Side Boat Club where the Mississippi River makes a sudden bend.

Wheatley, who interviewed the two men who were rescued, said the boaters told him they were exploring an area near a creek when they realized the water was getting too shallow. As they were turning the boat around, a big wave swamped the 16-foot jon boat, sinking it.

Wheatley said the boat was hit somewhere between 50 and 300 feet from the shoreline where Canton Marine Towing parks some of its towboats and barges. Several of the company's deckhands noticed the men in the water and immediately rushed to their aid.

"They were swimming and they were yelling, 'Help, help! We need help!' And somebody heard them and came over," Wheatley said. "They were kind of spread out in the water."

Glenn Sanders, who heads the Quincy-Adams County Volunteer Emergency Corps, said the deckhands "fired up one of the small tows and went out and rescued one of them immediately with the towboat. The other one was rescued with a throw ring from the bank. But they weren't able to get to the third one in time."

Wheatley said as the second passenger was being pulled to shore, the deckhands "looked back and a wave came up. And after the wave came up, they didn't see him (the third man) anymore."

The Volunteer Emergency Corps was summoned, and eight boats quickly began searching the water for any sign of the missing man in the area north of the Lock and Dam. Sanders said the Emergency Corps also used its big sonar-equipped boat to peer under the water. He said the water was 20 to 25 feet deep in that area and littered with debris.

Meanwhile, Wheatley -- who is based in Hancock County -- arrived on the scene later with a second sonar-equipped boat. He began searching the water blow Lock and Dam 21 while crews from the Adams County Sheriff's Department and the Tri-Township Fire Department searched along both the Illinois and Missouri sides of the river.

Sanders said the search crews were fortunate to have eyewitnesses who could pinpoint the general location of the boating accident.

"That's a luxury that we normally don't have" when launching search operations, he said.

Sanders said many of the volunteers didn't want to quit searching for the night because they personally know the missing man. "We tell them it's time to come in, but they're holding out hope just like the family is," he said.

Wheatley said the names of the missing man and the two men who were rescued were not being released immediately.

According to Sanders, the river Saturday afternoon was choppier than normal because some strong winds were coming from the south and pushing against the river's natural current.

"That makes your biggest waves," he said.

"This stretch of the river right here is one of the worse we've got when a south wind is making big waves," Sanders said. "You've got this little bend in the river right here that catches that south wind and builds up some monster waves right through here."

Sanders said it was his understanding that the three men in the boat "were out doing some scouting around" for possible hunting spots when the capsizing took place.

He said the two men who were rescued did not require hospitalization.

"Both are in good shape," he said.


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