Accident Database

Report ID# 2737

  • Other
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description

Family Rescued after Canoe Capsizing

By Elizabeth Braun and Jay Sorgi

Story Created: Jun 16, 2008 Story Updated: Jun 16, 2008

It was supposed to a relaxing day in their canoes, but now two families are lucky to be alive after two of their canoes capsized on a flooded river. The families from Fredonia set out in four canoes in the Ozaukee County town of Newburg. The water in the Milwaukee River is running high and fast from all the flooding, and that fast water caused two of the canoes to tip over.

The families were clinging to trees on a tiny island as swift water rescuers were called in. The youngest person in the group was seven years old. "It's tough to see that," said Newburg Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Dave Geidel. "We could have lost half a family out there today." "It's very nerve racking to have that many of your men out there in that kind of water."

"We're risking our lives," said Newburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Peter Waldkirch. "That's part of our job, but they should not have been out there." Rescuers moved the people one by one onto a boat. Then, they used a rope to pull all 10 people to safety. Two of the people suffered minor injuries.

Another canoer claims he warned the families the water would be dangerous. "I told them, 'there's a section of the river down there that's not exactly relaxing,' " said Nathaniel Reinartz, who says he gave the warning. "You gotta be on your game."

Charges Against Families Rescued On River?

Michael George Katie DeLong

FREDONIA - Two families from Fredonia are in trouble after their canoes capsized in the raging Milwaukee River. Two families took a canoe trip on Father's Day. The water was too fast and they capsized in the town of Saukville. Emergency crews risked their lives to save those 11 people. Now, those families could face criminal charges. All four canoes capsized in the rushing water.

Thankfully, everyone’s okay, but now a lot of people want to know what these families were thinking. It was an amazing rescue. Four adults and seven kids, some as young as seven years old all fell into the Milwaukee River during a canoe trip. “It could have been a disaster. It could have actually been a disaster,” Newberg Fire Chief Peter Waldkirch said. The two families set out on four canoes Sunday afternoon. All of their canoes flipped over, but they managed to cling to some nearby brush until help arrived. It took two hours and rescuers from five different departments to get everyone help. Two of the victims had minor injuries. Water on the river is flowing just as fast as Sunday.

Now, some of the rescuers are angry, saying those families had no business being on the river. “We were all put in harm’s way. It should have never happened,” Waldkirch said.Waldkirch says it was obvious the river was too dangerous. He's recommending criminal charges for the families and he plans to have them pay the hundreds of dollars it cost for the rescue teams.

Some residents agree. "These people should be fined just purely out of stupidity,” one resident said. “We're paying our tax dollars for it, so yeah they should be reimbursed,” one resident said. Waldkirch says he is most angry the parents brought seven kids with them. “My biggest issue is they took these young people out. If the old people want to take a chance, that’s up to them but to take younger people out, there’s no need for that,” Waldkirch said.

TODAY’S TMJ4 stopped by the homes of both families Monday to ask them their side of the story. They both declined an interview

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!