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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rafting experiment ends in wet sailors, anxious rescuers

August 11, 2007

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— A homemade raft of plastic barrels, part of a picnic table and duct tape almost proved fatal for four men who tried to use it to float down the Missouri River.

Three of the men ditched the craft Wednesday evening, about midway through their planned journey from Atchison to Leavenworth, as the raft began to break up.

The fourth man decided he'd stick it out, thinking he'd reach Leavenworth soon, said Assistant Leavenworth Fire Chief Mark DeMaranville. All four wore life jackets.

When he didn't arrive at Leavenworth's Riverfront Park, the planned landing point, his buddies notified authorities.

Rescuers from several jurisdictions searched the river for almost two hours in worsening weather but found nothing.

It turns out the raft came apart north of Leavenworth and its remaining passenger made it to the west riverbank. He walked through cornfields to a house in Leavenworth County, where he was located by the sheriff's office and fire department officials.

DeMaranville said the men, 19 and 20 years old, could easily have been killed trying to navigate the Missouri River's fast currents and dangerous undertows in a rickety raft.

"They were very, very fortunate," he said. "We easily could have had four families planning funerals for the young gentlemen."

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