MAD RIVER TWP. – A group’s recreational outing on Mad River turned deadly Tuesday afternoon near the bridge at state Route 55.
According to information from the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, several people were riding in a flotation watercraft south of the bridge at approximately 2:16 p.m. when it hit a large piece of tree debris known as a “strainer” in the river and the flotation craft capsized.
Among those dumped into the current around the strainer was a 14-month-old baby, Mia Ye of Bellefontaine, who fell from her mother’s lap and was unable to be saved from the rushing water. The baby was retrieved by recovery crews about three hours later in a debris area, but lifesaving efforts failed. Others involved were rescued from the river by deputies and fire/EMS members.
The incident led to a rescue mission by area fire/EMS agencies, and ultimately, a dive team was called in.
After recovery crews located the baby, CPR was initiated and she was transported to Mercy Health – Urbana Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased.
Identifications of the baby and others involved in the mishap are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and the Champaign County coroner. Johnson-St. Paris fire and water rescue crews, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, law enforcement from Clark County and Enon-Mad River EMS crews assisted in the effort.
According to the Ohio Division of State Parks and Watercraft, strainers are found on rivers and streams. They are dangerous obstacles that allow river water to pass through but solid objects like boats and people, to be caught underneath. A tree or fallen branch is the most common type of strainer. The obstacles also occur in the form of overhanging tree branches and limbs, log jams and flooded islands. The obstacles tend to trap people underneath as tons of water pressure cross through the debris. Once caught up in a strainer, it is difficult to escape even if the victim is wearing a life jacket.