Two people escaped serious injury Saturday morning but their dog is presumed to have perished when the boat they were fishing from capsized in the Rock River below the Oregon dam.
Boaters Jessica Long, 26, and Nathan Long, 31, both of Streator, were pulled from the river by two men Tom Olmstrom, 42, and Brian Gavin, 41, both of DeKalb, who were canoeing on the river when the incident occurred on March 30 at around 10:20 a.m.
"The boat sunk and two people and their dog ended up in the river," said Oregon Fire Chief Don Heller. "Two people in a canoe were just paddling up the river and they happened to see them and they helped get them to shore."
Heller said the boaters had already reached the shore when fire rescue personnel arrived.
"They had already been picked up from the river," said Heller. "They were very lucky."
Oregon Police Chief Darin DeHaan said witnesses told police it appeared as if one of the boat's occupants got a fishing line stuck and they moved closer to the dam’s west wall to retrieve the line.
The boat was facing north and began to turn when the water rushed over it, filling it and causing it to tip over, DeHaan said.
"The male surfaced about 30 feet south of the dam. The female was held under water for about 30 seconds and then she surfaced," DeHaan said.
Neither were wearing life jackets, DeHaan said.
"The individuals in the canoe paddled out to the victims and pulled them into the canoe, taking them to shore and turning them over to fire and EMS personnel," DeHaan said. "The dog has not been located so far."
The flat-bottomed fishing boat remained visible Saturday and Sunday stuck up against the dam's boil in the undertow with its motor still attached. The boat could not been seen Monday afternoon.
Illinois Conservation Police Officer Steve Beltran said the Longs, who were fishing for walleye, were transported to KSB Hospital in Dixon where they were treated and released.
"The husband and wife were ejected out of the boat and then exposed to the cold water," Beltran said. "In that type of water I was pleasantly surprised to be able to talk to two live people at the hospital. It really was a miracle."
The couple's 2-year-old black lab, named Danger, was still unaccounted for Tuesday.
Beltran said due to the turbulent water and cold temperatures it is unlikely Danger, who was wearing his collar, survived.
He said no citations would be issued. "They had the proper safety equipment on the vessel," said Beltran. "Our investigation is complete."
DeHaan urged visitors to be cautious and to heed warning signs posted near the dam.
“This incident is another reminder to all of us that the water conditions around our dam are dangerous and must be respected," said DeHaan. "We are saddened by the loss of the family pet, but due to the quick actions of other citizens, two lives were saved that day.
"Always wear life vests when you are on or around the water and be mindful that even though area around the dam is inviting for fishing, use caution as it can be very dangerous," DeHaan said.
Beltran said information about Long's boat had been entered into the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS), a statewide system maintained by the Illinois State Police.
"If it is found it will be returned to its owners," Beltran said.