Accident Database

Report ID# 3678

  • Swim into Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Menominee River Death by Ted Bilek

I went up to Piers’ Gorge on the Menominee on August 11,2012 in part to investigate further details regarding the drowning that happened there on Tuesday, August 8, 2012


I spoke with the owner of Northwoods Adventures, the rafting company involved. He said that two customers flipped out of the raft at Mishicot. Both were wearing PFDs and helmets. The woman surfaced, but the man didn’t. He just disappeared. They did not find the body until they shut off the upstream dam to lower the river. It turns out that Volkswagen is not one rock, but two; one on top of the other. The lower rock is undercut and there is a crack between the two. No one knew that before. The owner used the word “Sieve,” and said that it was not just a foot pin, but rather a full body pin. He said that there could have been more things stuck under there also; they just lowered the river enough to extract the body and did not do any further fishing.

The river was flowing at about 1200 cfs when the incident happened. My analysis: there was nothing that could have been done, short of not running the river or holding on tighter. It sounded like the guides were well trained and properly equipped. They were also well organized, quickly calling for assistance from the other companies and the proper authorities when the guy disappeared. The customers were wearing appropriate safety gear and had received the safety briefing. There have probably been thousands of swimmers at that spot over the years with no previous pinnings there. It was bad luck.

Piers Gorge rafter drowns

August 8, 2012

By LISA M. HOFFMANN - Staff Writer , The Daily News

NORWAY - An Illinois man was the victim of a rafting fatality that occurred at Piers Gorge on Tuesday afternoon. Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello reported that on Tuesday at 1:41 p.m. his office received a 911 call reporting a missing rafter at Piers Gorge on the Menominee River. The owner of Northwoods Adventure of Vulcan reported a male and female were thrown from a raft after striking a large rock in the rapids. Rescue workers respond to Piers Gorge in Norway Township after a rafter fell and disappeared beneath the Menominee River whitewaters Tuesday afternoon.

A passenger on a rafting tour, the victim’s body was found at approximately 4:30 p.m. For more photos, see Celello said the female was able to make her way out of the rapids, but the male was trapped by the current under the rock and never surfaced. Rescue operations were immediately started by law enforcement and local fire and rescue teams. Northwoods Adventures officials also contacted all area rafting companies for assistance because the river guides are all trained in white water rescue. "Despite best efforts by rescuers, they were not able to access the area of the rapids where the man was reported to be trapped - until the water flow was reduced by the dam above the rapids," Celello said.

The dam that was shut down to assist in the rescue operation was at the Little Quinnesec Falls, which is owned by Northbrook Energies. After the water level and flow were reduced, rescuers were able to reach the rock in the rapids. At 4:16 p.m., rescuers located the victim trapped under the rock. He was taken to shore and pronounced dead at the scene and identified as 59 year-old Mark Fackler of Mundelein, Ill. Fackler was wearing a life jacket and helmet at the time of the accident. Located south of Norway, Piers Gorge features bedrock walls up to 70 feet high. Beneath them, the Menominee River channels through a passage just 80 feet wide. The river, normally 300 feet wide, rushes and tumbles for about a mile and half over a series of four waterfalls. Four rafting companies in the area offer guided whitewater trips down the Menominee River.

Tuesday's rafting fatality was just the second drowning in the Piers Gorge area of the Menominee River in the last six years. Dickinson County Sheriff's Office was assisted by the Michigan State Police, Marinette County Sheriffs's Office, Norway Volunteer Fire Department, Breitung Township Fire, North Alert ambulance, Beacon Ambulance, American Red Cross, and river rescuers from area rafting companies. Sheriff Celello thanked the numerous residents who helped and offered to help in the rescue. 

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