62 Kayakers Swamped in Chicago River [Yes You Read that Right]

Monday, 02 July 2012

What the heck happened in Chicago this weekend?

Crews rescue 62 kayakers swamped in Chicago River during storm

Chicago police and firefighters had to rescue the novice kayakers on tours along the North Branch of the Chicago River when a severe storm swept through the city.

The city of Chicago has already issued citations against the two kayak companies, Waveriders Kayak Tours and Kayak Chicago for “violating restrictions on operating watercraft in hazardous conditions”.

A couple of questions that somebody could ask:

How many staff were out on the water that day and why could they not get people off the water in time considering the group were novices?

Was somebody back at the tour operators office watching the radar knowing that the conditions were ripe for a sever summer storm (high heat & high humidity)?

I understand that summer storms can come up seemingly out of nowhere but the National Weather Service did issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the west suburbs at 11:25am and then updated it to include Chicago at 12:24pm. The storm hit between 12:45 and 1:00pm. All of those warning should have given the tours enough time to get off the water.

Thank goodness nobody was physically hurt.

What a disaster.

Update: CBS Chicago followed up with one of the tour companies looking for some answers.

Update #2 - July 4, 2012 - Dave Olson, the owner of Kayak Chicago has written a very good report of what happened from his perspective that day.

According to Dave, the incident on the water was much more controlled then the media is reporting and that everything about the incident was blown considerably out of proportion.

I am truly appalled that the Marine unit and the Chicago Fire Department are taking credit for all of the rescues and make it sound as if there were over 30 people capsized and swimming in the river. They made the situation sound 10 times worse than it actually was. They never even made mention of the fact that our guides did the majority of the rescues.

It’s a good read.

For those who are business owners you might want to download and review these tips on how to deal with the media in a crisis. Its part of the large resource repository of free resources for instructors and outdoor professionals.


Video Capture Credit: WGN

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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