MAD RIVER TWP. — Local authorities on Wednesday identified those involved in Tuesday’s deadly boating accident on Mad River.
According to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, among those dumped into the current after boaters encountered an obstacle was a 14-month-old baby, Mia Ye of Bellefontaine, who fell from her mother’s lap and was unable to be saved from the rushing water. The baby was retrieved by recovery crews about three hours later in a debris area, but lifesaving efforts failed. Others involved were rescued from the river by deputies and fire/EMS members.
The group was boating on Mad River south of the bridge at state Route 55.
According to the sheriff’s office, the group was using three watercraft rented from Birch Bark Canoe Livery. The group was about one-half mile south of the bridge at approximately 2:16 p.m. when it hit a large piece of tree debris known as a “strainer” in the river and the watercraft capsized. Those involved were Hui Liu, a 32-year-old male from Bellefontaine; Su Qin Liu, a 34-year-old female of Bellefontaine; Julio Elias Chavez, a 28-year-old male of Columbus; Ya Wei Zhang, a 19-year-old female; and three other juveniles not identified to the media. The group was traveling in two canoes and one kayak rented from Birch Bark, according to information from the sheriff’s office.
First responders and investigators encountered a severe language barrier in assisting the boaters. One adult male spoke only broken English.
The incident led to a rescue mission by area fire/EMS agencies, and, ultimately, a dive team was called in, which included firefighters from the Piqua Fire Department.
After recovery crews located the baby, CPR was initiated and she was transported to Mercy Health-Urbana Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased.
The incident remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and the Champaign County coroner. Johnson-St. Paris fire and water rescue crews, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, law enforcement from Clark County and Enon-Mad River EMS crews assisted in the effort.
According to the Ohio Division of State Parks and Watercraft, strainers are found on rivers and streams. They are dangerous obstacles that allow river water to pass through, but solid objects like boats and people to be caught underneath. A tree or fallen branch is the most common type of strainer. The obstacles also occur in the form of overhanging tree branches and limbs, log jams and flooded islands. The obstacles tend to trap people underneath as tons of water pressure cross through the debris. Once caught up in a strainer, it is difficult to escape — even if the victim is wearing a life jacket.
A pattern of danger
During the past few weeks, multiple posts have been shared on social media pages about large and dangerous debris in Mad River in Champaign County. The posts were imploring people not to take risks on the river and to beware of debris that has sometimes been hidden under high water levels due to spring and summer rains.
On July 13, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and German Township Fire Rescue responded to a boating mishap in the same general area of Mad River. Several boaters were trapped in the water and rescued by first responders. One of the victims suffered minor injuries.
German Township Fire Department provided rescue and medical evaluation/treatment at the scene. All victims were successfully rescued from Mad River.
German Township has performed several rescues on that stretch of river recently. German Township of Clark County responds to emergency calls in southern Mad River Township in Champaign County.