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Kayakers missing in Des Plaines River in Riverside found safely

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said they managed to get out of the water on their own and walked home.

A pair of kayakers was located safely after being reported missing May 20, 2020, in the Des Plaines River.
A pair of kayakers was located safely after being reported missing May 20, 2020, in the Des Plaines River in Riverside.
Riverside Police Department

Two kayakers who were the subject of a search effort Wednesday after they went missing in the Des Plaines River in west suburban Riverside have been located safely.

Authorities were called about 11:30 a.m. for reports of two empty kayaks traveling down the river at a high speed near the Forest Avenue Bridge, according to Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel.

After hearing the sirens of the police and fire response and search efforts, a resident in the 200 block of Maplewood Road adjacent to the river called police to report seeing the kayakers in the river earlier, Weitzel said. The witness took photos of the male kayakers after telling them to get out of the water because it wasn’t safe.

A Chicago police helicopter assisted with the river search between 31st Street and the Barrypoint Bridge, Riverside police said. Officers searched the shoreline while fire crews and drones searched the water.

The search was called off about 2:15 p.m., Weitzel said. The kayaks were last seen “flying down the river” with their paddles still attached near the Ogden Avenue Bridge and the current was too swift to safely remove them from the water.

The occupants made it out of the water on their own and walked home, Weitzel said. One of them contacted police Wednesday afternoon after seeing media coverage about the search.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Police cited both kayakers for boating violations, Weitzel said.

He noted the DNR has closed the Des Plaines River to recreational boating because of unsafe conditions related to recent flooding in what has been the Chicago area’s wettest May on record.

In addition to the high water levels and fast currents, submerged tree branches and other debris could cause boats to overturn, Weitzel said.

“Even experienced boaters are having a difficult time,” Weitzel said.