After three people nearly drowned on the Kettle River last week, the incident is serving as a reminder to residents to be especially careful on the river this year. (Image: Grand Forks Gazette)

After three people nearly drowned on the Kettle River last week, the incident is serving as a reminder to residents to be especially careful on the river this year. (Image: Grand Forks Gazette)

Close call on Kettle River serves as a warning

Three women were tubing on the Kettle River when they had a brush with danger

After three people nearly drowned on the Kettle River last week, the incident is serving as a reminder to be especially careful on the river this year.

Three women were tubing the Kettle River on Thursday, said resident Bud Alcock. Alcock was ahead of the women in a pontoon boat; though he works as the city bylaw officer, Alcock said in this instance he was out on the river as a private citizen with friends. The women declined to share their names for this article, though wanted to share their story as a warning for others, Alcock said.

Alcock was slightly further ahead on the river when his friends, whose tubes were tied together, hit the river near the bottom of 19th Street, where Alcock said the river turns west and south in quick succession.

“I was just ahead of the ladies and saw what happened. They got caught in current and misjudged the turn to the south, got caught onto a log coming into the river,” he said.

One of the three was tossed out of her tube and floated ahead and swam to shore. However, it was a closer call for the two other individuals, Alcock said.

”[The second woman], the rope on her tube got caught around her arm and she was underwater, the third lady was ejected, she was trying to help her, until the first one for her arm undone,” Alcock said. “How she managed to get it undone she has no idea, the third lady held onto the branch and her [friend] until they recovered enough to take further action and draft downstream.”

As Alcock saw this happen, he said he attempted to reach them with throw ropes, as well as took his boat out, dragging it upstream and trying to reach them by floating back past. He also roused a nearby property owner, who came to help. They got the tubes untangled and assessed the women for injuries on shore.

The whole incident lasted about 25 minutes, he said, and another hour for the women to calm down on shore. Alcock said while one of the women was a new tuber, the other two were quite experienced – this could happen to anyone.

Over the years of living in proximity to the river, Alcock said he’s seen some close calls, but this was a tough one.

“I was helpless because I was downstream … feeling helpless watching three friends possibly lose their lives. The best thing is that all three are alive,” Alcock said. “Out of all that I’ve [seen] with, this is the closest to a multiple fatality that I’ve seen.”

One woman went to hospital with severe bruising and an arm in a sling from aggravated arthritis, but is overall okay. The other two individuals are just tired, sun burnt and sore – but hope that hearing about their close call will help others avoid making those same mistakes.

Alcock stressed that people should never tie their river tubes together, as well as always have a safety plan, and carry a cell phone in a waterproof case. While they did not call first responders in this case, others might need to call 911 in the event of an emergency on the river.

“You have to pay attention, always looking ahead at obstacles, paddle away from obstacles,” Alcock said. “I have seen numerous incidents and most were from people not paying attention.”