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Accident Description

Baby drowned during boating trip with family on Mad River in Champaign County

Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2019

By: WHIO News Staff, John Bedell, Riley Newton

Crews search for infant reported in river in Champaign County

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — UPDATE @ 2:43 p.m.:The family of a 1-year-old baby who drowned in Mad River Tuesday afternoon was on a trip with Birch Bark Livery in Champaign County when the boat capsized. The baby, identified as Miya Ye of Bellefontaine in an incident report, was with family in two canoes and a kayak, according to a worker at the livery.

There were seven people total in the boats and they had Coast Guard-approved life jackets, including one for the baby, the worker said. Four adult life jackets and three boats were included as a part of the incident report. However, there is no mention of any child life jacket.

The worker added that he told the family multiple times to get out of the river at the Ohio 55 bridge. News Center 7 found a sign hanging from the bridge that said “Birch Bark Canoe Livery state Route 55 take out. All trips end here.” The family signed waivers before the trip like all of the livery’s customers, the worker said.

An employee was driving to pick the family up at the bridge Tuesday and when he got there first responders were already on scene for search and rescue efforts, according to the worker.

News Center 7 is still working to learn more about what led up to the moments when Ye drowned in the river near Ohio 55 Tuesday afternoon. A woman called 9-1-1 saying the baby fell into the water from her lap while the family was boating and coming up on an area in the river with fallen trees and other debris.

The family hit a “strainer” while in a boat and capsized, first responders said. When asked why there isn’t any signage warning people about the water being dangerous, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Lt. Travis Martin said the agency can’t put up signs. “We are considering adding additional enforcement on the water way due to large numbers of incidents near this area, but the ODNR can not post signage on the river because the river is public,” he said. “We are also not allowed to place signage on private property, like the river bank.”

News Center 7’s John Bedell spoke with an experienced boater who spoke more about strainers and why they can be so dangerous. “Typically it’s a tree, but it can be anything that’s in the river that the river is flowing through, over, under,” Cliff Fawcett of the Massie Creek Paddlers said. “And it’s just like a strainer you would use when you make spaghetti. If you pour the spaghetti in the thing the water goes through and the stuff stays out. “So you’ll get stuff, debris that will get struck in the strainer or a boat, kayak or canoe, a raft will get stuck in that.”

Martin said that any river system will have some strainers. “It’s pretty common, especially when you have a lot of rain like we have,” he said. “We ask the public to be conscious of this and always wear a life jacket.” Fawcett added that the stretch of the river where the family was boating is challenging because of how narrow it is. There’s less room for people to avoid debris like trees in the river even if they can see it coming.

The incident was the fourth water rescue call in three weeks for that area of the river, said German Twp. Fire/EMS Chief Tim Holman.

A Springfield man who’s been kayaking and canoeing for over two decades said he doesn’t boat through that part of Mad River, even though he’s familiar with the water. “[My wife and I] actually get out of our boats and walk it across there because it is dangerous,” said Gregory Schutte. “Most people I know do that ... We see things that tip right there all the time.”

News Center 7 couldn’t find any signs posted near that part of the river that would warn people about the difficult water. Schutte suggested that any boaters research unfamiliar water before getting in a kayak or canoe. He also said that people should bring a life jacket, or at least keep one within arm’s reach.

Schutte visits Mad River during his lunch when he has a few minutes to squeeze in some fishing. But after Tuesday’s incident, fishing wasn’t on his mind. “I couldn’t even get the fishing rod out of the truck,” he said. “It just didn’t feel right.”

Baby perishes in Mad River accident

Christopher Selmek | Urbana Daily Citizen 

MAD RIVER TWP. — A group’s recreational outing to Mad River turned deadly Tuesday afternoon near the bridge at state Route 55. According to information from the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, several people were riding in a flotation watercraft south of the bridge at approximately 2:16 p.m. when it hit a large piece of tree debris known as a “strainer” in the river and the flotation craft capsized. Among those dumped into the current around the strainer was an 18-month-old baby, who fell from her mother’s lap and was unable to be saved from the rushing water. The baby was retrieved by recovery crews about three hours later, but lifesaving efforts failed. Others involved were rescued from the river by deputies and fire/EMS members.

The incident began as a rescue mission by area fire/EMS agencies, and ultimately a dive team was called in. After recovery crews located the baby, CPR was initiated and she was transported to Mercy Health – Urbana Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased. Identifications of the baby and others involved in the mishap are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and the Champaign County coroner.

According to the Ohio Division of State Parks and Watercraft, strainers are found on rivers and streams. They are dangerous obstacles that allow river water to pass through but solid objects like boats and people, to be caught underneath. A tree or fallen branch is the most common type of strainer. The obstacles also occur in the form of overhanging tree branches and limbs, log jams and flooded islands. The obstacles tend to trap people underneath as tons of water pressure cross through the debris. Once caught up in a strainer, it is difficult to escape even if the victim is wearing a life jacket.

Infant dies after being recovered from the Mad River in Champaign County

By Dayton Daily News Staff 

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — An infant recovered from a debris area in the Mad River Tuesday evening has died despite CPR and other life-saving measures, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office said. A female canoer called 9-1-1 about 2:16 p.m. to report that her infant had fallen into the water from her lap and disappeared under the rushing water as she and other members of her party, floating down the river, approached the area of several fallen trees and debris south of state Route 55.

A dive team and several other rescue crews were requested to Ohio 55 at the Mad River, just east of Ohio 560, after receiving reports that the infant went into the river. At least seven people were on a flotation device when it reached a strainer (a large tree placed in the water more than halfway across the river) and overturned, German Twp. Fire/EMS Chief Tim Holman said. Everybody on the device -- including the infant -- was dumped into the river.

Chief Holman said the victims were “freelancing” because that part of the Mad River where the strainer is set up is too dangerous for canoes, flotation devices and rescuers. The survivors were able to make their way to a small island next to the strainer, approximately a half-mile south of state Route 55, where they were rescued, the chief said. No one was wearing a life preserver and a language barrier exists between the victims and the rescuers.

Rescuers located the child in a debris area just after 5 p.m. and began CPR, which continued as they rushed the child to a waiting ambulance. Life-saving measures continued at Mercy Hospital in Urbana, but were unsuccessful. Holman said neither the age nor gender of the infant is known. “When it’s a kid, it takes a toll on everybody,” Holman said. “We live with that on a daily basis. ”Two of the seven rescued people suffered minor injuries. All of them were taken to Mercy Memorial Hospital. German Twp. fire has had to perform three rescues on that part of the river recently. “The water is deep there and the current is fast,” Holman said. The sheriff's office and the county coroner's office are continuing their investigation of this incident.