Crews search Rock River for missing Janesville man

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Xavier Ward
Sunday, July 23, 2017

JANESVILLE—Janesville police on Sunday identified the man suspected of falling into the Rock River on Saturday night as Dakota R. Giese, 21, of Janesville.

Police and firefighters were dispatched to the Rock River near Traxler Park at 6:46 p.m. Saturday after a report of a man falling into the river and struggling to swim.

Giese was last seen in the middle of the river near the Mineral Point trailhead, according to a news release from the Janesville Police Department.

Janesville police Sgt. Mark Ratzlaff said Giese and a friend were walking on the Ice Age Trail near Mercy Hospital when they decided to walk off the trail and toward the river's western bank.

Near the trail is a ledge that drops to the river's edge. The friend told police Giese lost his balance and fell off of the ledge into the river, Ratzlaff said.

The ledge does not have a railing, Ratzlaff said.

It was unclear Sunday whether Giese could have made it back to the west shore or how he got to the middle of the river, Ratzlaff said.

The friend ran to call for help immediately after seeing Giese fall in. Giese was crying for help and struggle to swim. He eventually went under and did not resurface, he said.

It was unclear Sunday whether Giese knew how to swim, Ratzlaff said.

There was no indication Giese was intoxicated and there are no signs of foul play, Ratzlaff said.

The search was suspended at about 9:45 p.m. Saturday, and crews resumed searching at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday using boats equipped with sonar, Janesville Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Running said.

Running said rescue crews were told Giese fell into the river from the Ice Age Trail near Mineral Point Avenue.

An object was indicated on sonar Sunday, but divers found it was a log, Running said.

Objects underwater such as logs mixed with the current can pin people under water, Running said.

If there is a body in the water, it could be far down stream by now, he said Sunday.

The river is flowing swiftly, Running said.

While the current near the shoreline may not seem strong, the current in the middle of the river is considerably stronger than usual, Running said.

Divers had ropes to keep them from being carried away by the current.

Dive crews reported low visibility under water, Running said.

“It's like chocolate milk. You can't see your hand in your face,” he said.

Running said the fire department is working as requested by the Rock County Sheriff's Office and Janesville police.

Weather permitting, crews will likely begin searching downstream past the Monterey Dam on Monday, Running said.

The last person to drown in the Rock River in Janesville was Jordan White, 23, who was reported missing Nov. 8. White had left home on his bicycle without taking his phone and wallet and having told his family he would return. His bicycle was found Nov. 11 in Monterey Park near the river.

White's body was found in the river south of Janesville on Jan. 1.

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