Man, Dog Survive Plunge over Illinois Waterfall

June 27, 2013
The swift current literally spit the man out, which usually doesn't happen.

June 27--CHARLESTON -- After a boat carrying a fisherman and his dog floated dangerously closer to Lake Charleston's deadly spillway waters Wednesday evening, the man swam for his life -- he almost didn't make it.

Pat Goodwin, fire chief for the Charleston Fire Department, recounted the story afterward.

Shane Cassady took his dog, Koda, and went out on his boat to fish in the lake Wednesday evening, when the motor quit.

Heavy rains Tuesday and earlier Wednesday boosted the lake's level and current. The man's boat began to drift toward the nearby spillway, which churned with powerful water, debris and an ominous roar.

Cassady jumped from the boat -- attempting to take Koda, whose collar slipped off -- before the boat got too near the spillway, Goodwin said. Alone in the water, Cassady tried to swim back to the boat but couldn't make it.

Back on shore, Alex Rice, 10, of Charleston called the Charleston Police Department when he saw what was happening. "I ran into the woods to find him," Rice said.

Out on the lake, Cassady tried to swim to shore, and he was nearly there when the strong current carried him and the boat, with Koda, over the spillway.

"The water sucked him down, and he went under and everything got dark," Goodwin said. "It brought him back up again and it took him under and, for an act of God, it spit him out." That doesn't usually happen, said the fire chief.

Such a current, especially at the Lake Charleston spillway -- where a memorial to those who have died in waters there rests nearby -- almost never lets its victims go, Goodwin said. Cassady pulled at grass and trees and managed to get out of the main current. He was hanging there when first responders arrived. He was able to crawl out and was rescued, Goodwin said.

Rescuers then turned their attention to Koda and about 6 p.m. successfully retrieved the canine.

After securing the boat to the bank, emergency personnel left it there, preferring not to risk their safety for it.

Alex was glad to have played a part in the rescue. "It feels good to have helped them," he said.

Personnel from the Charleston Police Department, Charleston Fire Department and Lincoln Fire Protection District -- home of the county dive team -- assisted.

[email protected]|(217) 238-6863

Samantha Bilharz contributed to this story.

Copyright 2013 - Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!