Written by STEVE OSTERMANN
Friday, 18 April 2014 15:22
A canoe trip gone awry forced a Cedarburg teen to spend several hours in a wooded area in the Town of Grafton before he was rescued Thursday morning after an all-night search by emergency crews.
Authorities said a 17-year-old boy was in a tent near the Milwaukee River off Lakefield Road when he was discovered by a Department of Natural Resources warden at 7:45 a.m.
The boy was uninjured but cold and wet after abandoning a solo canoe run on the river in Grafton’s Lime Kiln Park Wednesday night. Authorities said he flipped the canoe in the rain-swollen water but was able to reach shore.
The teen called his mother at 8 p.m. to say he was all right but wanted someone to get him. He told authorities he turned off his cell phone because the battery was dying.
Unable to reach the teen, his mother contacted the sheriff’s department, triggering the search.
Grafton Fire Chief Bill Rice said his department joined deputies in the effort, which soon included a team of DNR wardens, other local crews and a search by plane.
As temperatures dipped below freezing, crews searched the area, eventually covering both sides of the river. A DNR plane used infrared equipment in an attempt to locate the teen.
Unable to find the boy, crews suspended the search at 4 a.m., Rice said.
“At that point, we feared the worst. We believed something tragic might have happened,” Rice said.
At 6 a.m., another DNR plane flew over the area in the search while crews resumed looking on foot through steep, densely wooded terrain. A warden discovered the teen asleep in the tent.
The boy had built a fire to stay warm and was asleep when he was discovered. He was wearing wet clothes and shivering but otherwise unharmed, Rice said.
As a precaution, the boy was taken for medical observation.
Rice said more than two dozen members of the Grafton and Port Washington fire departments joined deputies, wardens and other emergency crews in the search.
Two Grafton firefighters sustained injuries that required medical attention, Rice said.
“It has a happy ending, but all of this could have been avoided,” Rice said.
“It was a very dangerous situation. No one should be out canoeing on rivers in southeastern Wisconsin at this time of the year.”