Accident Database

Report ID# 3520

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Divers search for 2 after canoe capsizes


Three members of the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department Dive, Rescue and Recovery team fight the cold, swift waters of Apple Creek on Friday night in search of two men in a canoe that capsized at Apple Creek Country Club east of Bismarck, ND. In the background, emergency responders

05-06-11 BISMARCK, ND Crew struggles to recover Apple Creek drowning victims

Recovery of Apple Creek victims stalled


MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune A member of the Bismarck Rural Fire Department Swift Water Current Rescue team directs the rope tenders on the bank of Apple Creek on Saturday to help navigate the raft against the swift current as they search for two men that drowned Friday night on the southeast edge Apple Creek Country Club east of Bismarck. The rescue crews probed for the bodies in the 46 degree water for eight hours before calling off the search for the day.
5-7-2011 Emergency workers tried to recover two drowning victims from the swollen Apple Creek on Saturday afternoon, but called off the effort. Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert said the men drowned after their canoe capsized at the Apple Creek Country Club around 8 p.m. Friday. Their bodies are lodged in a culvert under a submerged dam on the creek. The strong rapids flowing over the dam were preventing the rescue workers from reaching the victims.

Under normal circumstances, the dam is a walking path with the creek flowing through three 4-foot-wide culverts in the dam. The victims are inside a culvert, beyond the reach of the rescue workers and the strong current made the water dangerous, Heinert said at the scene of the accident Saturday.

“The treacherous water is what’s really adding difficulty,” he said. “It’s very dangerous at this point.”

The rescue team suspended their work around 3:30 p.m., said Sgt. Jim Hulm of the Sheriff’s Department, and would not start again until after Sunday.

“We pretty much exhausted what we could do with that equipment,” Hulm said. “We’ll be regrouping later this week and looking at alternative measures.”

Members of the rescue team worked from a boat tethered to the shore and tried to reach the victims trapped in the water below them. The responders and their vehicles were set up on a low-lying, soggy part of the golf course while golfers played nearby on other parts of the course.

Heinert said the creek was above 10 feet and usually overflows its banks at

9.4 feet. He said the water was between 2 and 12 feet deep and about 46 degrees.

The Sheriff’s Department responded to the accident with a Bismarck Rural Fire Department swift water rescue team. They worked to recover the bodies until about 10:30 Friday night and resumed their work at 7 a.m. Saturday, Heinert said.

Heinert identified the victims as Cory Berger, 23, of Bismarck, and James Hellman, 24, of Bismarck. The third passenger in the canoe, James M. Lynk, 21, of Bismarck, was able to escape the water.

Two others were in kayaks but they left the water before reaching the dam, he said. Heinert believed all the boaters had Bismarck addresses.

Neither of the victims wore life jackets, Heinert said.


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