Reports of Public Safety Incidents in the News: 2020

Reports of Public Safety Incidents in the News: 2020

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: 53
Deaths: 38
Injuries: 18

In order of most recent:

Tennessee: Fisherman missing after capsized boat sucked into dam spillway, Tennessee officials say. 11/29/2020
Quote: "A fisherman is missing after his boat capsized on a Tennessee river and got sucked into a dam spillway, officials say."
Update: Body Of Missing Fisherman Eric Mowery Recovered Below Fort Loudoun Dam
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Oregon: Oregon man, 20, dies while kayaking on Canyon Creek near Yale Dam. 11/16/2020
Quote: "The 911 caller reported that he and two friends were white-water kayaking near Yale Dam when one friend became trapped under water, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

South Carolina: Rescuers jump to action when SC man’s boat capsizes dangerously near dam. 11/6/2020
Quote: "They didn’t know it at the time, but also in the water was a man struggling to hold onto the boat and the cable across the spillway entrance. The wind and the flow of the water threatened to send him over the edge."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: Unknown.

Alabama: Body of missing boater recovered from Black Warrior River. 9/1/2020. WSFA12/
Quote: "[The Women] and two others were in a boat that went over the spillway on Tuesday night. The other two boaters made it out of the river."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

South Carolina: Juvenile rescued from Broad River after leg got stuck between rocks. 8/19/2020.
Quote: " A juvenile was rescued from the Broad River after his leg got stuck in the crevice of several rocks on the low head dam, said the Columbia Fire Department."
Deaths: Unknown. Injuries: Unknown.

Minnesota: Teen drowned after rescuing several children struggling to swim near dam, police say. 8/22/2020. Eminetra.
Quote: " Minnesota police say [an 18-year-old] drowned after carrying several children to safety who were nearby a dam."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Kentucky: Paris man identified as missing kayaker. 8/3/2020. WTVQ.
Quote: "He lost his footing and was swept under by the turbulent water created by the water flowing over the dam."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

KentuckyTwo Dead After Boat Capsizes Near Smithland Lock & Dam. 7/24/2020. WKMS.
Quote: "The boat motored into flood control gate number three, next to concrete. The turbulent water passing through the gate caused the boat to crash against the concrete, subsequently causing the boat to overturn."
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 0.

Illinois: Crews rescue person stuck in kayak at Steel Damquad. 7/22/2020. Our Quad Cities.
Quote: "First responders threw a rescue flotation device out to the man. He was able to grab onto it and then was pulled to shore."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

North DakotaKayakers Rescued on Red River in Grand Forks. 7/14/2020. WZFG.
Quote: "All seven occupants and the four kayaks were transported back to their launch point. All persons were wearing their life jackets and no one was injured."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

TexasSearch For 2 Teenagers Missing Near Possum Kingdom Lake Turns To Recovery Mission.7/10/2020. CBS DFW.
Quote: "Officials say one valve of the dam was open and the teens somehow got swept away by the current. One of those boys was able to make it to a shoreline, but lost his clothes in the process. The two other teen went under and haven’t been seen since."
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 0.

Pennsylvania: Man saves pair from drowning. 7/10/2020. The Daily Item.
Quote: "The men in the motorboat threw a rope into the water and both women were able to grab it. They would have drowned if they couldn't have grabbed the rope."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

NebraskaBusy Holiday Weekend For Beatrice Fire Includes Water Rescue.7/6/2020. News Channel Nebraska - Platte Valley.
Quote: "The tubes got caught in the river water churning at the bottom of the area where water spills over a dam. They were in the water, holding onto the tubes, but just kind of got stuck."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

South CarolinaMan Identified Who Died While Rescuing Little Girl In Catawba River, DNR Says No Life Jackets Were Worn. 6/23/2020. CN2.
Quote: "The dam was releasing water, so the current was strong. DNR says Zheng pulled the little girl to shore, but was then pulled under a current himself."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

ColoradoColorado father and son drown while rafting Arkansas River on Father’s Day. 6/21/2020. Denver Post.
Quote: "A father and his 16-year-old son drowned while rafting on the Arkansas River near Pueblo Sunday, according to local officials."
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 0.

New York16-year-old drowns in Lewis County. 6/19/2020.
Quote:"[He] was walking across rocks near a concrete dam when he slipped, fell into the fast-moving waterfalls, and didn’t resurface."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

CaliforniaTulare County man's swift water rescue prompts warning from officials. 6/19/2020. Visalia Times Delta.
Quote: "A man was exploring the low head dam, also known as the "waterfall," of St. John's River when he began to struggle in the water. His daughter went out to help and was also swept under by the current. She was able to swim to safety. However, her father was trapped in the middle of the quick-moving water. The fire department's swift water team jumped into action. Crews eventually reached the man and pulled him to safety. He was trapped in the water for roughly 90 minutes, firefighters said"
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

TexasTexas father drowns while saving 6-year-old son who fell into spillway, fire officials say. 6/15/2020. Fox.
Quote: "A Texas father drowned Saturday while saving his 6-year-old son who fell into a spillway."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

IllinoisUPDATE: Woman dies following river rescue in Milan after boat floats over dam. 6/15/2020. KWQC.
Quote: "The fire department said the caller told dispatchers four people were in a boat up against the steel dam. According to fire officials, the caller said the boat launched in the area of the Backwater Gamblers site in Rock Island and soon after, the boat's engine lost power and it began floating down the river until it reached the dam."
Update - Family says two victims in Milan Rock River boating accident are cousins.
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 0.

KentuckyEmer. Mgr. confirms body found in Laurel River is man swept away in dam release.6/12/2020. WKYT.
Quote: "He was reportedly out swimming with his wife and friends Saturday when water was released from the dam, pulling him under."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

IowaTwo dead after incident on Turkey River in Fayette County. 6/9/2020. KCRG.
Quote: "Crews pulled two people from the water near the dam, in the area of Mill and River Street, the sheriff’s office said. First responders took both people to Palmer Hospital in West Union where they were pronounced dead."
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 0.

ColoradoPaddle boarders rescued from below Stillwater. 6/9/2020. The Aspen Times.
Quote: The incident involved two women and a man with rented paddleboards who were spotted by an Aspen volunteer firefighter driving by who thought they might be in distress. [...] The three could not stop and went over the small dam."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

Rhode Island: After picture-perfect rescue, chief warns of dangers at Pratt Dam.  6/3/2020. The Valley Breeze.
Quote: "The two teens, who were entangled in debris, were rescued in under an hour using an inflatable raft built just for such an incident to pull people in through the front of it."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

UtahAmid Runoff Season On Weber River, Salt Lake Man Dies After Rafting Accident.6/2/2020. KPCW.
Quote: " [The] raft flipped when he went over a concrete diversion dam in the river.   He became wedged, with his raft and equipment, between the dam and debris in the river."
Death: 1. Injuries: 0.

Utah:  Five young men seriously injured in spillway; Utah County Sheriff's Office shares warning. 6/2020. KSTU.
CONTENT WARNING: The video included in this article includes graphic photos of injuries and should be viewed with discretion. (Link)
Quote: "The Utah County Sheriff’s Office is sharing a warning with the public after five young men were seriously injured after sliding down the spillway at Silver Lake Flat Reservoir."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 5.

Tennessee: Manchester teen drowns on Duck River. 5/31/2020. WSMV Nashville.
Quote: "
At Courtner’s Mill, an old low head dam, the three kayakers attempted to navigate an area, where the river has cut a channel around the dam."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Minnesota: Rochester Fire Department Rescues Man From Bear Creek. 5/31/2020. KROC.
Quote: "Initial reports indicated a man was floating in the water east of the dam and was in distress and needed assistance."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 1.

initial reports indicated a man was floating in the water east of the dam and was in distress and needed assistance.

Read More: Rochester Fire Department Rescues Man From Bear Creek |
initial reports indicated a man was floating in the water east of the dam and was in distress and needed assistance.

Read More: Rochester Fire Department Rescues Man From Bear Creek |
initial reports indicated a man was floating in the water east of the dam and was in distress and needed assistance.

Read More: Rochester Fire Department Rescues Man From Bear Creek |

Indiana: Conservation Officers Save Girl From Drowning. 5/29/2020. WBIW.
Quote: "Two Indiana Conservation Officers rescued an 11-year-old girl from drowning on Thursday after she fell into the Whitewater River in Richmond, below the Weir Dam."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

Rhode Island: Two teens pulled from debris in Blackstone River. 5/28/2020. WJAR.
Quote: "Two teenagers were pulled from the Blackstone River Wednesday afternoon after getting caught up in debris under the Pratt Dam."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

Tennessee: TWRA investigating fatal boat accident below Ft. Loudoun Dam. 5/24/2020. WCYB5.
Quote: "Officials report [that the two men] were fishing when their boat's engine failed to start and the boat was pulled into the spillway."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 1.

Michigan: Multiple water rescues, including one deadly kayak incident, in Monroe Memorial Day weekend. 5/24/16. ABC13.
Quote: "'This time of year since we had these heavy rains the waters up about four feet from normal and it's moving a lot faster, and with the low head dams the water cavitates. So, when you go over you lose buoyancy. So even if someone is wearing a life jacket they could still drown because the flotation is compromised,' he said."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

California: Firefighters rescue boaters on Stanislaus River. 5/24/2020. The Union Democrat.
Quote: "[A] hiker in Goodwin Canyon reported a group of adults and a child yelling for help near Goodwin Dam. They had lost their rafts and inner tubes in Class IV rapids below the dam, Modesto Fire staff said."
Note: 17 people had to be rescued over two days, as people did not take precautions and entered river waters while the Goodwin Dam was releasing large amounts of water.
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

Oregon: 6 adults and a child rescued from Columbia River after their boat collides with erosion control dam. 5/9/2020.
Quote: "The 40-foot Lawilila was rounding Kelley Point, where the Willamette and Columbia Rivers converge, when it hit the wing dam, which is usually visible but was under water because of high lake levels and difficult to see."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

Arkansas: Rescue crews recover body at Lake Fort Smith in Crawford County. 5/8/2020.
Quote: "According to [the sheriff], three people were sliding down the spillway on Friday, May 8, 2020. [The man] went underwater and did not surface."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Illinois: Search of the Kankakee River continues. 5/7/2020. Daily Journal.
Quote: "The search began just after 2 p.m. Thursday when several witnesses said they observed two people fishing on a small boat fall into the river. [...] according to eyewitnesses there may have been an issue with the boat that caused it to capsize just west of the dam near the Washington Avenue bridge."
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 0.

Kansas: Search continues for Augusta teen in Walnut River near Osage Dam. 5/6/2020.
Quote: "After 7 p.m. Wednesday, four young men were trespassing on private land along the bank of the Walnut River near Augusta. One of them urged others to jump in and swim. The other three refused, but he jumped in and never resurfaced."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Ohio: Angler, police save woman from drowning. 5/5/2020. Tribune Chronicle.
Quote: "[The woman] was canoeing on the Mahoning River when its current took control, causing the canoe to go over the dam, down 10 feet and flip."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 1.

OklahomaMan drowns in pond while trying to clear debris in Nowata County. 5/2/2020. KTUL.
Quote: "The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says a man has died after he drowned in a private pond [after] attempting to clear debris from a spillway pipe Friday night."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Louisiana: Drowning victim recovered from Grand Bayou. 5/1/2020. KTBS.
Quote: "The victim was among about a half-dozen people [...] who were swimming and jumping off the Grand Bayou spillway, which is a restricted area on the back side of the lake. The spot is roped off to keep people away."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Alabama. Near-drowning victim "dead" for four and a half minutes, shares recovery story at Erlanger. 5/1/2020. WTVC NewsChannel 9.
Quote:"The excess rain caused the current to be stronger than they were expecting. When get they got up to the [dam], the back flow sucked them in a barrel of water."

Note - This article incorrectly refers to the dam as a small waterfall.
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 1.

Ohio: First responders search river; Authorities look for missing man. 4/27/2020. Sidney Daily News.
Quote: "The search continued Wednesday for a fourth person who is still missing after an accident on the Great Miami River Monday night. [...] 'Per witnesses and victims statements they tried to boat over the low head dam and the current/water boil from the dam capsized them. The current/boil from the dam trapped them'."
Deaths: 2. Injuries: 2.

Tennessee: Mt. Juliet man drowns in Giles County creek trying to save dog. 4/25/2020. News4 Nashville.
Quote: "
TWRA officers were called to an area on Richland Creek where two paddlers had encountered a low head dam. The woman was able to get to shore and portage around the dam. The man went over the dam and was kicked out by the water flow below the dam."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Nevada: East Fork Firefighters Rescue Teens Trapped At Base Of Power Dam. 4/24/2020. KTVN.
Quote: "Officials with the East Fork Fire Protection District says three teens were rescued after jumping off the Power Dam on Friday. They said the teens got trapped at the base."
Deaths: 0. Inuruies: 1.

Wisconsin: Three kayakers capsize near Racine Street bridge in Menasha; one goes through dam gates. 4/20/2020. Post Crescent.
Quote: "Two of the kayakers were able to get to shore before the dam, but the other went through the dam gates, police said. After going through the gates, the kayaker was able to get to shore and was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 1.

Oregon: Mother, child hospitalized after 7-year-old goes over 40-50-foot cliff at Blue River Dam. 4/15/2020. KPIC.
Quote: "A mother and child are hospitalized after being injured while biking at the Blue River Dam. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office says the mother and two children were biking around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when a seven-year-old boy went over a 40-50 foot cliff."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 2.

Missouri: Troopers think drowned kayaker got caught in 'hydraulic' below dam. 4/10/2020. MSN.
Quote: "A Springfield man's trip to try out his new kayak turned tragic when he likely got caught in a roiling 'hydraulic' at the base of Lake Springfield dam last week, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Couple and Their Dog Take an Unexpected Dip Near a Dam

Read More: Couple and Their Dog Take an Unexpected Dip Near a Dam |

Iowa: Couple and Their Dog Take an Unexpected Dip Near a Dam. 4/7/2020. KOEL.
Quote: "The couple [...] were tossed out of their boat as they tried to move closer to the roller dam."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

were tossed out of the boat, as the couple tried to move closer to the roller dam.

Read More: Couple and Their Dog Take an Unexpected Dip Near a Dam |

Kentucky: Man stranded on Laurel Co. dam rescued. 4/4/2020. FOX56.
Quote: "Crews with the London-Laurel County Rescue squad were able to rescue a man stranded at the low head dam on East City Dam Road after a boating accident."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 0.

Georgia: Two women rescued after going over Juliette Dam while tubing. 3/26/2020. FOX24 (WGXA).
Quote: "Monroe County Emergency Services were dispatched after a caller reported seeing people who went over the Juliette Dam while tubing down the river on March 26. [...] 'Normally they say they get off before the dam but since the water was up and the water was more forceful they went over the dam,' said Cook."
Deaths: 0. Injuries: 1.

Iowa: Man drowns near lock and dam on Mississippi River. 3/21/2020. ABC-9 (KCRG).
Quote: "The Iowa Department of Natural Resources say the 14-foot fishing boat went into a restricted area near the low head dam around 1:30 pm on Saturday, March 21st. The boat began taking on water in the turbulent area."
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 0.

Tennessee: TWRA: Two teens, parent still missing on Pickwick Lake; boat recovered with 'extensive damage'. 2/22/2020. Commercial Appeal (Memphis).
Quote: "Search teams recovered the missing boat Monday morning on the Tennessee River below Pickwick Dam near the Savannah Bridge. The boat went through the flood gates and suffered 'extensive damage,' according to [a TWRA spokeswoman]."
Update: All three bodies were recovered. 3/12/2020.
Deaths: 3. Injuries: 0.

MichiganKayaker pulled from St. Joseph River Wednesday pronounced dead. 1/1/2020. South Bend Tribune.
Quote: "He had been swept under and trapped beneath a log lodged against the dam."
Update: Two others were injured. 1/2/2020.
Deaths: 1. Injuries: 2.