ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Belvidere Police Officers Rich Weiland, Mike Ball, Brandon Parker, Michelle Schwartz, and Julie Schultz worked as a team to rescue Angela Wirth from the swiftly flowing Kishwaukee River.

On Monday, May 25 Belvidere Police Officers rescued a Loves Park woman whose kayak had capsized in the fast-flowing waters of the Kishwaukee River. Angela Wirth had come out with friends to enjoy kayaking down the river on Memorial Day.

At approximately 4:35 p.m., Officers of the Belvidere Police Dept., Boone County Sheriff’s Dept., Belvidere Fire Dept., and Illinois State Police, District 16 responded to a 911 call of a woman who was in the Kishwaukee River after her kayak had capsized spilling her into the river. First responders located a 43-year-old woman from Loves Park clinging to a tree limb after the current had washed her down river near the Spencer Park Conservation District in Belvidere.

The woman was struggling to hang on to the tree limb and started to “bob” under the water when Belvidere Police Officers fashioned rescue ropes and entered the frigid water. After struggling to stay afloat the officer was able to reach the woman and pull her from the tree limb as they were both pulled to the riverbank by several first responders from the Belvidere Police Department, Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Belvidere Fire Dept. and Illinois State Police.

Captain David Burdick of the Belvidere Fire Dept. said, “We responded to a call about a woman stranded and holding on to a branch in the river. I was the first firefighter at the scene. The police were already on the scene throwing ropes and Officer Parker was already in the water.

“I deployed a throw bag and BFD crews were in Mustang suits, ready to go in and deploy the boat in case she let go. Officer Parker, who was already tethered, grabbed the woman and let go of his branch. They used his tether to pull both of them back to safety. Once out of the water, we paramedics walked her to our ATV and drove her up the path to the emergency medical personnel at the Lifeline Ambulance by the road.

“Ultimately, she refused transport to the hospital, was released, and we cleared the scene. She had launched at Hickory Hills Canoe Launch (in Spencer Park, S. Appleton Road) and had only made it 100 to 200 yards downstream so she hadn’t gotten very far and had her own transport right there.

“Water levels are high on the Kishwaukee River right now so, if you are going on the water or near water, please use caution and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.”

“We got a call that a female kayaker had tipped over and was stranded in the river,” said BPD Officer Brandon Parker. I arrived with my shift and saw her dangling by a branch. We threw life ropes out but it wasn’t working for her. Officer Rich Weiland tied a rope around my chest and I went into the river. I was knocked back by debris but the BPD team held on to the rope and I managed to make it to the branch she has hanging on to. I hand-walked down the branch to her and told her to let go of the branch and grab me instead. She was hesitant to let go but I reassured her and held tight.

“The river was very high and very cold and the current was extremely strong. If my team and the firefighters hadn’t pulled us back, I’d still be in the river. I’m glad we got to her and pulled her to safety. It was a great team effort with everyone pulling. There is so much that could have gone wrong. They had to cut the rope and vest off me.

“The river was calm by the boat launch but turned rough before long. A Sheriff’s Deputy who was just coming on duty stopped to help as well.”

Just four days later, the scene was completely different. When showing the media where the rescue took place, Officer Michelle Schwartz said, “I didn’t know that trunk was there. The river level was completely different.”

Thanks to the combined efforts of all the citizens and first responders they were able to keep this Memorial Day excursion from becoming a tragedy.

The Belvidere Police Department encourages anyone having information or video pertaining to this incident to call the Belvidere Police Department at 815-544-2135. Like us on Facebook at Belvidere Police Department.


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