Aurora Cops Honored for River Rescue

Sgts. Rick Ahlgren and Daniel Eppard rescued five boys on Vermilion River on June 28

A pair of Aurora police sergeants were commended Tuesday for the heroism they showed in June when they rescued five boys from the boil of the Buzzi Unicem Dam on the Vermillion River in Oglesby.

That day had started off as a nice bonding experience between John Elenz and his son, Ryan Elenz. Then they got pressed against the dam in the churning water.

"I was thinking, 'How am I going to get out of this?' and he said, 'Dad?" and I said, 'Yeah, Ryan, what's going on?' and he said, 'I'm sorry we had to die this way,'" the elder Elenz recalled Tuesday. "I said, 'We're not going to die. Someone's got to come down this river eventually.'"

The pair held on for roughly 40 minutes before four other young men -- Colin Fath, Graham Fath, Matthew Grammas and Tyler Fredrickson -- saw them in despair and turned around to help.

The four boys pulled Ryan Elenz into their raft, and that action released John Elenz from the water's grip. But then all five boys were trapped.

That's when Sgts. Rick Ahlgren and Daniel Eppard, who were off duty, came upon the group.

"It was pretty dangerous. We could see them holding on and they were pretty terrified," Eppard recalled Tuesday.

Eppard threw a rope to the boys and pulled them to safety. He knew to keep a rope in his kayak because three years ago he rescued a woman from the same place in the same river.

John Elenz, a commander with the Niles Police Department, said Tuesday he'll be forever grateful for Eppard and Ahlgren.

"I don't know how we would have made it out of there. I don't think we would have," he said.

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