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Multiple water rescues, including one deadly kayak incident, in Monroe Memorial Day weekend

(WTVG)
Published: May. 24, 2020 at 9:06 PM EDT
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Beautiful weather over Memorial Day weekend makes it a busy one out on the water, but high river levels and strong currents can create disaster for boaters and kayakers.

In Monroe, Michigan, on Saturday authorities responded to three water rescues involving kayakers and one man died.

This serves as a grim reminder on the importance of water safety as the unofficial start to summer kicks off this weekend.

Alexandria Elliot and her friends were watching the River Raisin flow Saturday night at Veterans Park. Moments later, things changed quickly as they witnessed a deadly kayaking accident.

"It was crazy because we were just talking about all of the accidents that day and we were like it could be really dangerous, and then like instantly after that it happened," said Elliot.

Authorities say around 8:15 a man in his mid 20s died while kayaking in the river. Three other kayakers, including a child, were with him. Officials say that group was stuck in debris, but they're all expected to be OK.

When emergency crews arrived on scene, the man was unresponsive.

"All we could do was pray that the people were OK and sadly he wasn't, but it was hard being there and not being able to do anything," said Elliot.

Captain Brent Newsom of the Monroe Fire Department says the dam is believed to play a role in the accident, and it appears the man who died was not wearing a life jacket.

"This time of year since we had these heavy rains the waters up about four feet from normal and it's moving a lot faster, and with the low head dams the water cavitates. So, when you go over you lose buoyancy. So even if someone is wearing a life jacket they could still drown because the flotation is compromised," he said.

Officials say the strong current and high water levels are expected to last at least another week. So, for now, it's best to steer clear of rivers and opt for less dangerous water, like ponds. Also, brush up on the basics to keep safe.

"If you're going to go on any river to map out your course first if you can possibly drive it or maybe use Google Earth. One of the most important things, use a life jacket," said Captain Newsom.

"It's crazy what can happen, you know, and it could happen to anyone," said Elliot.

Another tip from the Monroe Fire Department, preparation is key. Take a safe boating class if you're planning to enjoy the water this summer.