Wisconsin Kayaker Charged for Phony Rescue

May 29, 2013
His claim that two canoeists were in distress resulted in a massive two-day search.

May 29--The kayaker who police say fabricated a story about assisting two men after their canoe overturned in the Chippewa River faces five criminal charges in connection with the incident.

Search efforts related to Andrew M. Wallace's made-up account resulted in Eau Claire and Township fire departments spending 94 personnel hours at a cost of $7,600, police said.

Wallace, 30, of Manitowoc, is charged in Eau Claire County Court with a misdemeanor count of false emergency phone use and four misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer. He is free on a $100 signature bond and returns to court July 2.

According to the criminal complaint:

At 1:38 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, Eau Claire police and firefighters were sent to the Chippewa River south of the Short Street bridge after receiving a call about a kayaker in distress in the water there.

Authorities discovered Wallace on the river's shore. He told police he overturned his kayak while attempting to rescue two canoeists in distress. Wallace said the two men were still in the river and had been swept downstream.

Authorities searched for the men during the next two days. Personnel from the Eau Claire and Township fire departments, state Department of Natural Resources, Mayo Clinic Health System, and police and sheriff's departments in Eau Claire searched for the missing men.

Wallace said he threw a rope to the canoeists and the powerful current tipped over Wallace's kayak and pulled him from it. Wallace then hung onto his 19-foot kayak and struggled to the shore.

When a police detective told Wallace May 1 that authorities had received no reports of missing individuals, Wallace insisted his story was accurate. He said he would not put rescuers' lives at risk by providing false information.

Later that day the detective spoke with a woman who worked with Wallace for two years. She said Wallace frequently makes up stories and most of her co-workers no longer believe him.

The following day the detective again confronted Wallace about his story. This time an apologetic Wallace admitted he made up the account about the two canoeists in distress. He didn't provide the detective with a reason why he fabricated the account.

In addition to fire departments' hours, the Eau Claire Police Department and Eau Claire County sheriff's office devoted 70 combined personnel hours to the incident on April 30 and May 1.

Holtz can be reached at 715-833-9207, 800-236-7077 or [email protected].

Copyright 2013 - The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

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