Accident Database

Report ID# 3150

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

Accident Description

Flood took out safety line over Des Moines River


July 2, 2009

A steel cable across the Des Moines River that served as a safety line for boaters who floated perilously close to the Center Street dam was washed away in last summer's floods and was unavailable to a Pleasant Hill couple whose craft plunged over the dam Tuesday, city officials confirmed. Alan Neely, 62, died after he was sucked into the churning waters at the base of the dam and his life vest was ripped from his body. His wife, Patricia Ralph-Neely, 67, stayed alive long enough to be plucked from the water by a construction worker who dangled from a crane to reach her. She remained hospitalized Wednesday but had recovered enough to issue a written statement that thanked her rescuers as "the reason I'm here."

The safety cable, which stretched across the river just upstream from the dam as a sort of emergency lifeline, was not replaced after the record 2008 flood because of construction of a pedestrian bridge that will be part of the Principal Riverwalk, Don Tripp, director of the city's parks department, said. A worker on the bridge project, Jason Oglesbee, was lowered to the water at the end of a crane cable until he could reach Ralph-Neely, a retired teacher, and pull her to the safety of a fire department rescue boat. Her husband's body was recovered downstream near the Scott Avenue dam about 40 minutes after the 4 p.m. calamity.

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