It was a terrifying scene in suburban St. Charles on Sunday as a rescue team pulled several boaters to shore, and the dramatic rescue was caught on camera.
The eye-opening rescue was one of two that has taken place on the Fox River recently, and the incidents are causing city leaders to take a fresh look at safety and rescue measures to prevent tragedy on the waterway.
Just before 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, boaters were enjoying a day on the Fox River when a thunderstorm began to blow into the area, with gusting winds and heavy rains.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, a boat with three people on-board was stranded approximately 1,000 yards from the Fox River Dam, according to authorities.
The boat had been able to drop anchor, but strong winds continued to push it toward the dam, forcing rescue workers to jump into action, according to St. Charles Firefighter Mike Pyzyna.
“Once the storm hit and those winds pushed the boat, our time window collapsed in on us,” Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said.
The boaters were plucked from their vessel just seconds before it crashed over the dam, and a video captured the dramatic scene.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we could have had fatalities that day,” Schelstreet said.
In the wake of the incident, the fire department said that the city will implement new response measures, including keeping a rescue boat in the Fox River at all times, thus reducing the response times for first responders.
“Firefighters on duty at Station 1 can literally just run across the parking lot, get into the boat, and cut three to four minutes off our response time,” Schelstreet said.
The fire department will also look to encourage boating safety, along with the St. Charles Park District, and will look for new ways to notify boaters of potentially dangerous situations on the water.