Reports of Public Safety Incidents in the News: 2019

The ASDSO Public Safety Around Dams Committee tracks U.S. dam incidents reported in the news. This is not a comprehensive list of all incidents in the United States in a given year, and the entries are created (or excluded) using the best information available to us at the time. If you see an error or would like to provide additional information, please contact Katelyn Riley at [email protected].


Incidents: 75
Deaths: 57
Injuries: 19

In order of most recent:

Washington: Rowers rescued after frightening ride in the Ballard Locks. 12/22/2019.
Quote: "Two rowers had quite a scare while attempting to traverse the Ballard Locks this Sunday morning, and it sounds like one rower even went through the spillway itself. Fortunately, both were rescued without injury."

Michigan2 rescued after boat capsizes in Grand River dam. 10/24/2019.
Quote: "Two fishermen are uninjured after their boat capsized Tuesday morning in the fast-churning waters of the Grand River’s Sixth Street Dam."

IndianaDNR: 2 dead, 3 missing after boat capsizes on White River. 9/3/2019.
Quote: "Authorities said seven people were in the boat just downstream of the IPL dam on White River near Martinsville. For reasons unknown at this time, the boat capsized, throwing all the occupants into the river."
Note: A total of five people lost their lives in this incident. 9/5/19.

Utah: Man pulled from Provo River after turning underwater. 8/31/19. KJZZ.
Quote: "A man in his 50s almost drowned in the Provo River near the Center Street bridge sometime Saturday afternoon."

Oklahoma: Crews rescue man trapped below dam at Lake Overholser amid severe storms. 8/27/19. KOCO 5.
Quote: "Oklahoma City Fire Department officials told KOCO 5 the man was fishing when the current started to rise. He wasn't able to swim well, and he ended up on the side of the dam, trying to get to safety."

Minnesota: Three Survive Fall Over Lake Zumbro Power Dam. 8/26/2019. KROC.
Quote: "Deputies arrived at Mac’s Park Place campground to find three people in the pontoon which stayed upright after the 55-foot fall over the dam."

deputies arrived at Mac’s Park Place campground to find three people in the pontoon which stayed upright after the 55-foot fall over the dam. The three were rescued.

Read More: Three Survive Fall Over Lake Zumbro Power Dam |
deputies arrived at Mac’s Park Place campground to find three people in the pontoon which stayed upright after the 55-foot fall over the dam. The three were rescued.

Read More: Three Survive Fall Over Lake Zumbro Power Dam |

Indiana: Man dies while trying to save girlfriend from capsized kayak on Ohio River, officials say. 8/24/19. ABC News.
Quote: "[The man's] body was found around 11:30 p.m. floating near a hydroelectric dam across from the boat ramp." The kayak was swamped by waves and river turbulence near the hydroelectric dam.

Texas: Kayakers disregard warning signs, bump against dangerous spillgates on Guadalupe dam. 8/15/19. San Antonio Express-News.
Quote: "In a July video shared by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, people in kayaks disregard warning signs posted at the Nolte Dam on Meadow Lake. One pair of kayakers bump up against the spillgates, while another group steps onto the concrete and climbs down the stairs on the other side."

IndianaTeen drowns near St. Lawrence River dam. 7/30/19. WCAX.
Quote: "They say both were swept toward the dam by the strong current."

Tennessee: Fishing guides called ‘heroes’ after coming to the rescue of injured fisherman. 7/30/19. WATE.
Quote: "[The two men's] boat capsized, thought to have overturned because of falling water from a spill gate."

New York: Indiana man found dead in St. Lawrence River. 7/30/19. NNY360.
Quote: "State police said [the man] and a friend were swimming in the St. Lawrence River, in the vicinity of the Long Sault Dam, when both were swept toward the dam by a strong current."

Iowa: 'Just keep holding on': Video shows struggle as police rescue 2 people after raft capsizes in river downtown. 7/29/19. Des Moines Register.
Quote: "Police on Monday evening rescued a 44-year-old man and 50-year-woman from the treacherous waters after their inflatable raft capsized on a lowhead dam near the Scott Street Bridge and both were pulled under its current, police officials said."

Nebraska: Body of second drowned fisherman found. 7/29/19. Hastings Tribune.
Quote: "Authorities have recovered the body of a second man presumed drowned near the Guide Rock Diversion Dam, according to the Webster County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Troy Schmitz said the men had been fishing near the dam and they were pulled under water by the undertow."

Nebraska: North Platte man drowns after fall into irrigation gate structure. 7/27/19. North Platte Telegraph.
Quote: " A man drowned early Saturday after falling into an irrigation gate structure on the North Platte River, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office."

Iowa: Iowa officials say kayaker rescued from Mississippi River. 7/27/19. Telegraph Herald.
Quote: "Television station KWQC reports that the Clinton County Sheriff's office was called Friday to Lock and Dam 13 for a water rescue."

Utah: Man who drowned Saturday in Provo River identified. 7/27/19. Daily Herald.
Quote: "Initial reports said after jumping off the bridge into the water, he went missing for more than 20 minutes. The spot where he jumped has been noted as a commonplace for people to jump from into the water."

Oklahoma: 2 killed after pickup crashes into Canton Lake spillway. 7/27/19. Enid News & Eagle.
Quote: "Two men were killed Friday night, July 26, 2019 in Blaine County when the pickup they were in went over a 70-foot emergency spillway at Canton Lake, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is reporting."

Tennessee: Dam release stranded three people in river, group safe and rescued. 7/23/19. WCYB.
Quote: "According to Sullivan County EMA director Jim Bean, a guide and two clients were out boating on the South Holston River for a fishing expedition. Suddenly, the three people got stuck on the rocks. Bean says the surge of water can easily cover rocky parts of the waterway."

Michigan: Body pulled from Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. 7/22/19. WZZM 13.
Quote: "A Grand Rapids Fire Department spokeswoman said it's believed a homeless man who lived by the water was trying to cross the dam near the Fish Ladder, but he turned around to swim instead."

Iowa: Body of apparent drowning victim recovered in Cedar River. 7/22/19. Iowa City News.
Quote: "Emergency personnel arrived on scene to find a male had been swimming near the dam when he went under water and failed to resurface."

KansasBoy drowns in spillway area at Clinton Lake. 7/19/2019. KCTV News 5.
Quote: "Rescue crews recovered the body of a 13-year old boy at Clinton Lake on Friday. [...] Back at the Clinton outlet, or spillway area, is where investigators say [he] was playing in the water when he went under."

Tennessee: TWRA recovers the body of the missing man whose boat overturned at Pickwick Dam. 7/17/19. Jackson Sun.
Quote: "[The man] is from Rienzi, Mississippi, and was fishing alone on his 16-foot aluminum boat below Pickwick Dam when it was swamped by water, according to a TWRA press release."

Kansas: Woman, child and dog rescued from river in Kansas. 7/16/2016. Hay's Post.
Quote: "First arriving units encountered a mother and her small child in a kayak in the river, hanging onto the bridge pillar just above the dangerous low head dam."

MinnesotaMissing Winona Boater Found. 7/15/2019. CBS Minnesota.
Quote: "Authorities say that just before 7:30 p.m. Friday, two people fell into the Mississippi River when their boat capsized after they attempted to pull over at the spillway."

Wisconsin: Body of father found near Prairie du Sac dam. 7/14/2019. WTMJ.
Quote: "The body of a man who went missing while trying to save his children has been recovered in the Wisconsin River."

Montana: Drowning victim who died trying to save dog identified. 7/12/19. Ravalli Republic.
Quote: "A Hamilton man drowned Friday after attempting to save a dog caught in an undertow behind a diversion dam on the Bitterroot River."

California: Ventura man accidentally fell to his death at Matilija Dam. 7/9/19. Ventura County Star.
Quote: "The victim's son flagged down a sheriff's deputy and reported his father had fallen over the edge while the two were out fishing, authorities said."

Colorado: Drowning victims identified: Morgan County Coroner determined both fatalities were accidents in two separate incidents. 7/9/2019. Fort Morgan Times (Colorado).
Quote: "Prascher was using a flotation device while floating east in the river. She came to a low head dam in the river that diverts water from the river. She went over the dam and was caught in the diversion."

Pennsylvania:Harrisburg firefighters try to rescue kayakers, end up needing rescue themselves. 7/8/2019. Penn Live.
Quote: "The kayakers were ahead of them, went past a set of warning buoys and ended up going over the dam. The rescue crew of three people went over shortly after."

IowaKayaker drowns after riding over low-head dam near Clarinda, Iowa. 7/8/2019. Omaha World-Herald.
Quote: "A kayaker drowned on Friday while trying to ride across a low-head dam on the Nodaway River in southwest Iowa."

IowaMissing boater identified. 7/8/2019. The Gazette.
Quote: "The sheriff’s office said witnesses reported [the man] went into the Cedar River from a boat just below the spillway and did not resurface."

California: Rafter Almost Drowned Near Sundial Bridge in Redding. 7/8/2019. Action News Now - Chico.
Quote: "The ACID diversion dam was downstream but the four Redding residents were not aware of it. Though the four tried to swim to the shore the current was strong and they swiftly headed downstream towards the diversion dam."

Pennsylvania: River rescue crews pull combative, underwear-clad man from river before he jumps out of boat. 7/7/19. Penn Live (The Patriot-News).
Quote: "A man wearing only his underwear jumped off of the Market Street Bridge, went downstream and over the dam, was rescued, but then jumped out of his rescuer’s boat to swim ashore."

California: Woman in hospital with 'severe injuries' after getting swept into ACID diversion dam. 7/5/19. Redding Record Searchlight.
Quote: "The woman had been floating with three friends ... on three 'pool/lake' inflatables they tied together and launched on the Sacramento River at the Caldwell Park boat ramp at about noon on Thursday, police said. They did not have paddles or life vests."

Missouri / ArkansasTwo drown in McDonald County in recent weeks. 7/4/2019. McDonald County Press.
Quote: "Upon seeing the swimmer struggle, [he] entered the water downstream to attempt a rescue. The two quickly became caught in the waters current but were able to rely on each other until the Noel Fire Department arrived on-scene."

Indiana: One rescued, one killed after boat crashes near McAlpine Dam. 7/4/2019. ABC57.
Quote: "After two days of searching, officials have located the body of a man thrown overboard following a boat crash on the Ohio River. On July 1, a boat carrying [two men] crashed into the upper gates of the McAlpine Dam, throwing both men overboard."

North Carolina3 hurt after boat runs up on dam between Falls Lake, Beaver Dam. 7/4/2019. CBS17 - Raleigh.
Quote: "Three people were injured after a boat drove up onto the dam separating Falls Lake and Beaver Dam."

Tennessee: Clarkesville teen dies at Cheatham Dam. 7/3/19. WZTV Fox17.
Quote: "A 19-year-old died after drowning at the Cheatham Dam on Wednesday."

Minnesota: St. Paul USACE: Pontoon passengers rescued near Red Wing. 7/2/19. KSTP.
Quote: "According to a tweet Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - St. Paul District said operators were able to help the passengers off the pontoon before it went through the dam's roller gates last week."

Colorado: Access restricted on fast-flowing Clear Creek in Jefferson County. 7/2/19. KDVR Fox31.
Quote: "According to Stricker, the tuber likely tried to disembark in one of the parks upstream but was unable to get to shore due to the strong current. The employees described her tube as a “pool toy” and said she was not wearing a life jacket. 'She was this close to dying. Literally dying,' Gomez said. 'I have been [at Coors] 29 years… No one has ever made it this far down and lived. It just doesn’t happen.'"

Indiana: Missing boater's body recovered downstream from Sherman Minton bridge. 7/1/19. WHAS11.
Quote: "[The man] failed to resurface after the boat he was riding in crashed into the upper gates of the McAlpine Dam, which is a restricted area. The boat's engine malfunctioned near the dam. Watson and the boat’s operator, Levell Washington, were thrown from the boat sucked through the dam."

North CarolinaChild Rescued After Getting Caught in 'Drowning Machine' on Dan River in Rockingham County. 6/30/2019. WFMY News 2.
Quote: "A boy and his family were swimming at the Dan River's Lindsey Bridge Access in Madison, when the boy became trapped in the water hydraulics flowing from a low-head dam, nicknamed the 'Drowning Machine.'"

CaliforniaMan nearly drowns on Kings River near Pine Flat Dam. 6/28/2019. Your Central Valley.
Quote: "He managed to grab some brush and hold on. Deputies responded by vehicle, helicopter, and boat, but Cal Fire personnel managed to get to the man first. They tossed devices to him, and the man grabbed hold. Firefighters pulled him to shore in a semi-conscious state."

North Carolina: Body Believed to 16 Year Old Swimmer Recovered from River. 6/26/19. Spectrum News.
Quote: "Officials say three teenage girls had been swimming in the river near the dam just before 4 p.m. The area they were at is popular for swimmers, but is off limits to the public due to it being treacherous and dangerous."

Texas: Boy, 15, drowns at popular San Marcos swimming spot. 6/26/19. KSAT.
Quote: "The body of a 15-year-old boy was recovered Wednesday afternoon at a popular San Marcos swimming location, the Hays County Sheriff's Office confirmed to KSAT. The boy drowned at Dudley Johnson Park, also known as the 5 Mile Dam, in San Marcos, officials said."

Michigan: Woman trapped along dam rescued from Dowagiac River. 6/26/19. FOX17.
Quote: "When emergency responders arrived, the woman was clinging to the side of the dam in the water before being pulled to safety."

Indiana: Niles fire chief honored for river rescue. 6/26/19 (Incident); 11/28/19 (Article). South Bend Tribune.
Quote: "The 34-year-old Chicago woman had been tubing with friends in the river when she was pulled into swift water upstream of the dam and grabbed onto a branch to avoid beging swept down the spillway chute."

OhioKayak accident results in the death of a local man. 6/25/2019. The Daily Jeff.
Quote: "A Malvern man lost his life while kayaking the Muskingum River on Sunday evening."

Illinois/Iowa: Man falls into Mississippi River from Lock and Dam 14. 6/23/2019. Quad City Times.
Quote: "Illinois and Iowa search and rescue teams spent several hours on the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 14 on Saturday searching for a 35-year-old man who reportedly fell into the swift-moving river on the Hampton, Illinois, side of the dam."

Missouri: Wichita man dies trying to save woman from drowning in Missouri's Elk River. 6/22/2019. KWCH12.
Quote: "The Missouri State Highway Patrol says a woman was swept underwater at the dam. They say 26-year-old Jacob Farley dived into the water to try and save her."

Idaho: 21-year-old Idaho man drowns in Teton River Friday afternoon. 6/18/2019. Standard Journal.
Quote: "The young men floated in tubes over a diversion dam and the currents stranded two of the young men and an undertow dragged the 21-year-old male under the dam, trapping him and drowning him."

Oklahoma28-year-old Texas man drowns while fishing in southeast Oklahoma, officials say. 6/16/2019. KOCO News 5.
Quote: "A 28-year-old Texas man drowned Saturday night while fishing at Denison Dam in southeast Oklahoma"

California: Man drowns after attempting to 'surf a spillway' off the Kings River. 6/15/2019. ABC30 Fresno CA.
Quote: "According to investigators, he tied a rope to a handrail, then himself and jumped in with a raft, attempting to "surf the spillway." When he did and jumped into the raft, the raft broke out of the bottom and he went down into the water and never resurfaced."

UtahKayaker drowns in Jordan River. 6/14/2019. The Salt Lake Tribune.
Quote: "The man, who was described as in his 50s, was kayaking ... when the boat overturned on the spillway. The force of the moving water kept the man submerged underwater and he drowned, according to officials."

NebraskaBody of missing kayaker found; grandfather remembers his grandson as humble. 6/11/2019. Lincoln Journal Star.
Quote: " [A man] was trying to go over the Loup Public Power District diversion dam on the Loup River on May 25 when his kayak tipped over."

North Carolina: 14-year-old missing on South Fork Catawba River found dead. 6/10/19. WBTV.
Quote: "[Two teenagers] went swimming in the South Fork Catawba River around 6:30 p.m. Monday in an area off Stanly Spencer-Mountain Road in Lowell. Both teens were swept away in the current, officials said, and were taken over the dam."

TennesseeWho owns Peery's Mill Dam? Drowning victim's mother wants safety changes. 6/10/2019. WBIR News.
Quote: "Several people have drowned in the vortexes created at Peery's Mill and other low-head dams throughout the country. [A] Hardin Valley Middle School student ... drowned in the Littler River one week ago. Her mother and the relatives of other drowning victims are asking for improved warning signs and other safety improvements."

MissouriIndependence man dies at Blue Springs Lake. 6/10/2019. KSHB News.
Quote: "[A man] was spotted casting a net near the spillway at the Blue Springs Lake during the mid-afternoon. About an hour later, [he] was spotted floating face down in the water around 5:30 p.m."

Arkansas: Northwest Arkansas man dies in apparent drowning while canoeing near dam. 6/10/19. Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Quote: "Authorities in Northwest Arkansas said a man died while canoeing near a dam this weekend when he passed over a spillway and went underwater, officials said Monday."

Minnesota: Woman escapes Mississippi River near edge of dam. 6/9/2019. KSTP News.
Quote: "She escaped just before going over a nearby dam .... The video shows an emergency responder and a person who appears to be a civilian help her to her feet and off the rocky bank where she made it out of the water."

New Jersey: Man rescued from Camden County dam. 6/4/2019. WPVI-TV.
Quote: "Officials said the man climbed on the water structure but then became stuck when the water level dropped."

Texas: Two men drown at Morris Sheppard Dam. 6/3/19. The Graham Leader.
Quote: "According to the Texas Game Warden, the men were fishing near the dam in an aluminum boat when they got pushed into a restricted area. The boat got caught in an eddy, a circular current caused by one of the dam gates being open, and capsized."

Tennessee: Maryville girl, 13, drowns at Walland dam. 5/30/2019. WBIR.
Quote: "A 13-year-old girl drowned Wednesday afternoon at Peery's Mill Dam, a place that's proved hazardous to swimmers in the past."

Michigan: Kayaker dies after being pulled into water at dam. 5/30/2019. WTVB.
Quote: "The Albion Department of Public Safety says [a] 56-year-old [women] was kayaking with a friend when she lost control of her kayak and the swift-moving water pulled her under through a nearby dam"

Colorado: Pueblo officials urge water safety following man's death, 5/30/2019. Associated Press.
Quote: "Pueblo emergency officials are warning of the dangers of the area's waterways after an 18-year-old man was found dead in a canal this week."

Iowa: Authorities seek kayaker who capsized near Hydroelectric Dam in Des Moines River. 5/27/19. The Messenger.
Quote: "A kayaker fell into the Des Moines River Monday afternoon after the kayak he was in capsized and the current swept him away."

Indiana: The search continues for the kayaker caught under a Norway Dam current. 5/27/2019. WLFI News.
Quote: "Lieutenant Dan Dulin with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has spent the day with six other agencies searching for a body in the Norway Dam. 'The White County communications center received a 911 call from individuals that stated their friend had capsized in a kayak,' said Dulin."

OklahomaHero dies trying to save girl from swirling waters. 5/6/2019. KTEN News
Quote: "The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a Denison man drowned Sunday evening while trying to save a 10-year-old girl from strong current near Denison Dam."

North CarolinaAfter teetering over the edge of dam for days, boat is removed, NC officials say. 4/16/2019. Charlotte Observer.
Quote: "Polk County Emergency Management posted late Monday that heavy winds and high lake levels prevented crews from removing the pontoon boat. 'It is too dangerous for anyone to get close to the boat with the current conditions,' Monday’s post said."
Note: While nobody was hurt in this incident, first responders were put in danger while trying to recover the boat from the dam.

GeorgiaAL woman killed in kayaking incident on Chattahoochee River ID’d. 4/3/2019. WTVM9.
Quote: "Harris County Coroner Joe Weldon has confirmed that [a] 37-year-old [women] from Henagar, Alabama died when the kayak she was in with her 11-year-old son went through a low head dam on the Chattahoochee River."

IllinoisTwo Bodies Identified From DuPage River Near Hammel Woods In Shorewood. 4/1/2019. WJOL.
Quote: "The bodies of two people who drowned Sunday, March 31, in the DuPage River in Shorewood were recovered Monday, April 1, by emergency responders." "The dam may look calm at times, but it is extremely dangerous because of the turbulence at the structure’s base."

California: Local agencies located a missing person's body today. 2/15/19. Lassen County News.
Quote: "According to the statement, Myers had reportedly been working on a weir/dam to regulate water levels on Willow Creek when he went missing."

Indiana: Search suspended for person seen in water near Edinburgh’s Big Blue River Dam. 1/24/19. FOX59.
Quote: "'We’re fighting a battle here with a low head dam that has a well to keep debris or individuals from getting out of that, the river is very high at this time – it’s flooded,' said Sheriff Burgess."

Wisconsin: 2 children pulled from water after falling through ice in Sparta. 1/6/2019. WAOW
Quote: Fire Chief Mike Arnold says at 3:11 p.m. they received a call for someone falling through the ice. He says they were told three children under the age of 12 were on the ice walking near the dam when two of them fell through.

Iowa: Two Kayakers Involved in Accident Near Red Rock Dam. 1/5/2019, KNIA/KRLS
Quote: “We saw the kayaks were up by the danger sign, and one of them got sucked in and the other one followed him in and got sucked in too,” he said.

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