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Lock staff’s quick response save canoeist, dog

Published Dec. 9, 2014
MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Duane Skjeie, operations, drives a cart at Lock and Dam 5, near Minnesota City, Minn., Nov. 5.

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Duane Skjeie, operations, drives a cart at Lock and Dam 5, near Minnesota City, Minn., Nov. 5.

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Nathan Van Loon, operations, and Duane Skjeie, operations, change a filter at Lock and Dam 5, near Minnesota City, Minn., Nov. 5.

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Nathan Van Loon, operations, and Duane Skjeie, operations, change a filter at Lock and Dam 5, near Minnesota City, Minn., Nov. 5.

A typical day at Lock and Dam 5, near Minnesota City, Minn., turned into a quick reaction rescue for two of the district’s lock operators recently.

Nathan Van Loon, Lock and Dam 5 head operator, said it was a fairly windy day with 3 to 5 foot waves on the north side of the dam. He said he noticed a canoeist and his dog come down the river and try to hold on to the wall, but the canoe began taking on water and capsized. 

Van Loon said he sees a lot of canoeist attempting to canoe the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, near Bemidji, Minn., to the mouth of the river south of New Orleans. He said canoeists have been on the water for a little more than two weeks by the time they arrive at the lock and it is an area where a lot of them call it quits because of the challenges. “Changing weathers, different currents, it’s just not a good place to be by yourself in a canoe,” he said. 

Duane Skjeie, Lock and Dam 5 lock operator, said the rescue happen really quickly. After receiving a radio call from Van Loon about the situation, Skjeie said he ran to the scene and threw the canoeist a life ring while Van Loon used the life boat to reach him. Worried about his dog, Skjeie said he worked with the canoeist to retrieve the dog and reassure them while waiting for the life boat. “I tried to calm him down and reassure him and just said ‘hang on dude, we’re coming with a boat to save you.’”  

Skjeie said this was the first time that he was involved with this type of rescue. “You just want to do what you can to keep this guy safe,” he said about the event. With a few weeks since the rescue, he said he hopes he doesn’t have to do another rescue mission, but if needed, he said he feels up to the task. “No life jacket, bad conditions on the river, we even got most of his stuff back,” he said. “I feel good about it because you rescued a dog and his man.”