One Man Dies, Another Recovering After Going Over Dam on Rock River

[image] A jet skier is pulled from the water near the Steel Dam in Milan.

The call Sunday evening reporting two jet skiers in the water near the Steel Dam in Milan prompted a massive response from emergency crews.

One man was successfully rescued, the other's body was recovered a short time later downstream. Officials have not released the identities of either man at this point.

The Rock Island Fire Department tells us they were dispatched to the scene just before 5 p.m. Sunday. The call came in from the Milan Police Department.

Also responding were Rock Island County Sheriff's deputies, Med Force, Black Hawk Fire Department, Moline Fire Department, Davenport Fire Department, the Big River Rescue and Recovery Dive Team, and the Department of Natural Resources.

As one fire official we spoke to put it: "You need as many boats and people as possible to pull off a rescue like that."

The report came in that two jet skiers were in the water at the Steel Dam. When ambulance crews arrived at the Back Water Gamblers site, the only access to the river in that area, they were told by a witness that the jet skiers had been in the water for a while.

Apparently, they both went over the dam. One man was caught in the "curl" at the base of the dam. That's the churning current of water going in a circular motion and basically recycling the water for about thirty feet out.

The Rock Island Fire Department went out on Van Druff Island to access the shoreline on the far east tip. When the fire department arrived, they could see one jet skier in the water at the base of the dam.

He was holding on to a large tree. He was wearing a life jacket.

Fire officials say they could not see the other man in the water. However, they did see debris from both jet skis there.

The Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department dispatched its boat to make an approach from down stream of the dam, but because of the high water, it could not proceed beyond the rail bridge. The Moline Fire Department Boat was upstream of the dam.

Realizing that a rescue by boat was not going to be possible, crews had to come up with a different plan.

They tied floatation devices to a long rope and the Back Water Gamblers boat took it up the river, guided by radio to the victim, to get the rope down to him. They sent it over the dam and the man secured himself to it.

Crews used the rope to pull him to the north shore and eventually pull him out of the water. He was taken to Trinity West.

Fire officials tells us they were not able to locate the second jet skier at that time. His body was subsequently recovered by the Arsenal Fire boat down stream from the dam.

The Department of Natural Resources is handling the investigation.


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