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Riverside

Safe at home: missing kayakers contact police two hours after search and rescue effort is terminated

Men saw media reports of rescue efforts before contacting cops

A Lyons Fire Department boat searches the Des Plaines River May 19 after two unoccupied kayaks were spotted moving downstream near the Forest Avenue Bridge in Riverside. The kayakers were later located and cited  for careless operation of a watercraft. Photo provided
A Lyons Fire Department boat searches the Des Plaines River May 19 after two unoccupied kayaks were spotted moving downstream near the Forest Avenue Bridge in Riverside. The kayakers were later located and cited for careless operation of a watercraft. Photo provided

RIVERSIDE - A three-hour search of the Des Plaines River for two missing kayakers ended May 19 when one of them saw media reports about the search and called police to say the two were safe at home.

The two men, ages 22 and 24, of Palos Hills, were cited by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Police for careless operation of a watercraft, according to a Riverside Police Department news release.

As of May 26, the river remains closed to all recreational boating due to high water levels and unsafe conditions.

Both kayakers were safe and uninjured. They told police that their kayakes tipped over, but they were able to reach the shore.

The search began at about 11:30 a.m. when a resident flagged down a Riverside police car and reported seeing two unoccupied kayaks moving downstream from the Forest Avenue Bridge. He said the kayaks had paddles and appeared to have personal items inside.

Police checked the Forest Avenue Bridge, and saw two kayaks moving downstream. Additional police cars were dispatched to the Barrypoint Bridge, which separates Riverside from Lyons. Police were later dispatched to the Ogden Avenue Bridge where they spotted the empty kayaks swiftly moving downstream, police said.

Witnesses told police that two individuals portaged their kayaks and put them in the river near the Forest Avenue Bridge. A resident told the men not to go into the water because it was not safe.

Police and fire personnel walked the shore and deploying boats and drones to search the shore lines. A Chicago Police Department helicopter assisted in the search. The search was called off at 2:15 p.m.

Police released information to media outlets and posted pictures of the kayakers on the department’s Twitter account. At about 4 p.m., one of the missing kayakers, who saw the media coverage, called police and said he was at home.

Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel reiterated the unsafe conditions of the Des Plaines River.

"Riverside Police, along with fire departments, responded to six water rescues and searches within the last six weeks on this river,” Weitzel said in a statement. ""It’s very high, swift and dangerous even for the most experienced recreational boaters. These two people, who were in the water on Tuesday, didn’t even have life preservers or life jackets on at the time of the incident. I urge citizens to stay off the DesPlaines River until the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reopens it.”

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