Teen canoe trip turns treacherous - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Teen canoe trip turns treacherous


BELOIT (WKOW) -- Rapid, rising waters and floating debris caused two canoers to flip over in Turtle Creek Tuesday.

Six departments in Rock County were called to the scene, where swift water rescue teams pulled Autumn Nelson, 18, and Levi Cahill, 18, out of the water.

"It takes a lot to do these swift water rescues -- it's very tiring. The water's moving really quick. There's a lot of debris. We have to have backup systems in place in case they break loose," said Chief Bradley Liggett, of the Beloit Fire Department.

Cahill says he knew the water was moving quicker than usual.

"When we got there we realized it was a little fast. We probably shouldn't have gone in, but we did anyway. We thought we'd be able to handle it," Cahill said.

He and Nelson were canoeing with his brother and friend, who were in another canoe. Both came around a sharp turn. His brother was able to make the turn, while Cahill and Nelson began sliding sideways into debris.

"At that point, it was kind of too late. The canoe went up and down, and then it kind of shook a little bit more and then into the water we went," Nelson said.

The two latched onto a tree to stay afloat, but the water around them was going up.

"The tree we were on initially was longer but as time went on we had to scoot up more. There was less and less of the tree because the water kept rising," Nelson said.

Turtle Creek's water levels in Beloit are 7.46 feet, about 1.5 feet below flood stage, according to Rock County Emergency Management. While Nelson and Cahill were holding onto the tree, water levels rose by one foot due to runoff from Monday night's storm, according to Liggett.

"When the water quickly rises, it picks up all kinds of debris off the shore. Of course there's falling trees that may not have been there before because of flooding. There are so many different avenues that could cause problems during this rainy season," Liggett said.

Liggett says the situation was extremely dangerous for the teens, as well as rescue teams.

"At one point during the rescue operation, as the first patient was pulled from the water a large section of debris broke loose and actually struck one of the rescuers that was still in the water with patient number two," Liggett said.

Nelson and Cahill were not wearing life jackets while they were canoeing. Though, Liggett advises that people should avoid the waters during rainy season, he recommends the following water safety tips:

-Use personal flotation devices, equipped with emergency whistles and emergency lights.

-Wear helmets.

-Don't wear loose clothing, as it can catch on debris.  

Both Nelson and Cahill were uninjured. Still, Liggett warns that just because it's not raining, doesn't mean the water is safe.

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