Accident Database

Report ID# 3128

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Teacher drowns, 2 others OK after rafting accident

Survivors include Naperville fire official’s niece

June 28, 2009


OGLESBY — The daughter and niece of two west suburban fire officials is recuperating this weekend, following a rafting accident on the Vermilion River that claimed the life of a friend and fellow teacher. St. Charles resident Janelle Veseling and an acquaintance, Timothy Ruse, survived the accident that killed Jennifer M. Wehling, of DeKalb, Illinois Conservation Police said.

Veseling, 23, is the daughter of Acting St. Charles Fire Department Battalion Chief Leo Veseling and the niece of Naperville Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Veseling. Her mother, Margery Veseling, declined to discuss the accident when contacted Friday night by telephone at the family's home.

Janelle Veseling and Ruse were rescued from the river shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday by members of the Oglesby Fire Department, after the raft on which they and Wehling were floating went over a low-head dam and was sucked into the turbulent "boil" at its base, according to a statement from conservation police. Ruse, Wehling and Veseling were part of a group of seven people who rented two rafts from a boat livery along the river in LaSalle County, the police statement read in part. A preliminary investigation indicated the trouble began as the rafts approached a dam not far from a cement plant. The first raft and its four occupants "moved to 'river right' and passed the dam without injury," the police statement declared. The second, carrying Veseling, Ruse and Wehling, failed to follow in the same manner "and consequently went over the low-head dam, becoming caught in the recirculating currents," or boil, according to the statement.

Ruse managed to escape the surging water under his own power. Veseling also escaped and was plucked from the river by firefighters, while Wehling had to be pulled out of the boil by rescuers, the statement indicated. All three were taken to Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, where Wehling was pronounced dead, the statement said. Veseling and Ruse were released from the hospital after undergoing treatment there. The police statement indicated all three were wearing U.S. Coast Guard-approved "personal flotation devices," or life vests, at the time of the accident.

Police charged Veseling and Ruse with unlawful operation of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor, according to the statement. The accident remains under investigation. Wehling, a 36-year-old mother of two, was a first-grade teacher at St. Mary School in DeKalb, according to the school's Web site. Veseling teaches third grade there. Ruse, 38, of Sarasota, Fla., was reportedly a close friend of Wehling's.


Illinois teacher dies in rafting accident

Associated Press - June 27, 2009 7:54 PM ET

OGLESBY, Ill. (AP) - A first grade teacher from DeKalb will be remembered at a funeral after authorities said she died in a rafting accident on the Vermilion River in LaSalle County. The funeral for 36-year-old Jennifer Wehling will be this Wednesday. Wehling taught first grade at st. Mark School since 2001. Illinois Conservation Police say the raft Wehling was in became caught when it went over a dam on the river on Thursday. Rescuers pulled Wehling from the water and she died at a hospital in nearby Peru. Two passengers in Wehling's raft, 38-year-old Timothy Ruse of Sarasota, Fla., and 23-year-old Janelle Veseling of St. Charles, face charges of operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol. Information from: The Daily Chronicle, Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

River dam debate unresolved
Saturday, July 11, 2009 
By Jeff Dankert

Buzzi Unicem officials say they’re willing to work with a rafting company and local officials to find a way to allow safe boating on rafts, kayaks and canoes, but for now the Vermilion River is closed between Lowell and Oglesby. Three serious accidents and two fatalities occurred at the dam in the past two months.

Buzzi Unicem cement plant’s no-trespassing enforcement on its portion of the Vermilion River in Oglesby has river users in an uproar about the shutdown of their fishing hole and whitewater river. It’s sparked debate about water rights, low-head dams, and a rock slide near Buzzi’s quarry above Wildcat Rapids.

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