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Late start leads to dumped canoes Friday south of Fort Leonard Wood
BIG PINEY, Mo. (May 29, 2010) — Thirteen people dumped four canoes Friday night on Bald Ridge Creek off Highway TT outside the South Gate of Fort Leonard Wood, according to Duke Rural Fire Chief Ron Wyatt.

“At first they said 11 people in the water, they didn’t know how deep the water was, and there were children involved,” Wyatt said. “We didn’t know what we had when we responded; we all headed down there and we found people who said one person was paralyzed from the waist down and one had a broken arm.”

That led to an emergency call from Duke firefighters for additional ambulances; firefighters from the Rolla Rural Fire Protection District and Edgar Springs Fire Protection District were paged out for rescue boats and Rolla firefighters placed their dive team on standby for an emergency response.

However, the people in the flipped boats hadn’t explained to firefighters that the man paralyzed from the waist down was a paraplegic and his condition wasn’t due to being dumped into the water.

“Luckily, he could swim,” Wyatt said.

When firefighters determined what was actually happening, they learned that a total of 13 people had set out in four canoes, leaving the Six Crossings area about 7 p.m.

“They got a late start and when they hit a turn in the river, they hit a tree and dumped the canoes,” Wyatt said.

One of the canoes sank and wasn’t retrieved until Saturday morning. Nobody was injured in the incident, Wyatt said, and the second ambulance on its way from the Pulaski County Ambulance District was cancelled en route. Medical personnel in the ambulance that did arrive checked out the paraplegic man and determined he didn’t require further medical attention.

A total of six Duke firefighters responded, Wyatt said.

It’s always important to allow adequate time before nightfall when traveling on area rivers, Wyatt said.

“On this particular situation, the people know the river but this was a case in which alcohol was involved and it impaired their judgment about leaving too late,” Wyatt said. “The people are from all over, but they’ve been coming down here for a long time and have family and friends down here.”

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