Sheriff: Elderly Man Missing in Dangerous Area of Mississippi River

Updated: 06/06/2014 11:02 PM
Created: 06/06/2014 10:48 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- A Stockton man is presumed dead after his canoe capsized into the Mississippi River near Winona. Rescue crews were on the water searching since mid-morning, but still no has been body recovered.

Authorities say the elderly man went under in an area that averages one to two deaths a year. We were on scene today and talked with a fisherman who was there as it all happened.

"Mother nature, she'll flip you in a second,” said witness, J.R. Cardwell.

J.R. Cardwell was fishing off the shore of the Mississippi by Prairie Island Spillway, when he saw the 88 year old man in his canoe. "All of a sudden a friend spotted him, boat tipped over,” said Cardwell.

The man's canoe got too close to the spillway and it capsized. Without a phone, J.R. quickly tried to help. "I took my boat out, tried to get close enough but he was gone,” said Cardwell. "We looked all over and we couldn't find nothing all we found was a paddle and a chair,” he said.

By the time he towed the canoe to shore, rescue crews had responded. The Winona County Sheriff's Office tells us the man is an avid canoer and this is an area he often comes to. They also say he is a strong swimmer.

"He didn't have a life jacket on and there’s a current where he was and he might of gotten sucked in right by the spillway and water circulates a lot there by the spillway," said Sheriff Dave Brand, Winona County Sheriff’s Office. That on top of high water has made it difficult for the Winona County Dive Rescue Team to recover the body.

"It's too turbulent by the spillway to use divers, which we would normally use, so instead of that we've been using drag bars searching the bottom of the spill way area,” said John Krofchalk, Winona County Dive Rescue Team.

Crews say underwater sonar cameras also won't work with the high current. It's the area by the Prairie Island Spillway, that many including J.R. Cardwell call a deadly spot on the Mississippi River.

"You never know what's going to happen, it happened so fast,” said Cardwell.

The man's family has been notified, but law enforcement has yet to release his name. Rescue crews will be back out on the water tomorrow morning.