Man rescues self from Rock River

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Thursday, April 1, 2010
— A Janesville man survived a few minutes in the frigid water of the Rock River on Wednesday after his boat capsized.

Brian Berns of 2922 W. Avalon Road went into the fast-moving water near the base of the Monterey Dam and pulled himself out at nearby Lustig Park, the Janesville Fire Department reported.

A man fishing from the riverbank below the dam saw Berns’ boat capsize and called 911.

Berns had come upstream in a motorboat and got close to the dam, just below the bridge, witnesses said.

Janesville firefighters were dispatched at 8:38 a.m.

Berns tried to get close to the dam and threw an anchor in, said Anastazio Mendoza of Janesville, who was fishing from the bank.

Mendoza said he saw the man trying to pull the anchor into the boat, and that’s when the accident occurred.

Berns told firefighters he grabbed onto his cooler and floated downstream before swimming to shore. Paramedics met Berns in the park, but he declined medical treatment, said Shift Cmdr. Scott Morovits.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it out of the water, so I called 911,” Mendoza said.

“I’m glad that he made it,” Mendoza said, adding that the man probably had family who were saved the grief from what could have turned into a tragedy.

Mendoza said the river is dangerous, especially this time of year and especially next to the dam.

“The current is too strong. I have waders, but I don’t go in the water when the water is this fast,” Mendoza said.

Capt. Jude Maurer of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, who has worked on the department’s patrol boat but did not know the particulars of this case, said boaters should familiarize themselves with any waterway before venturing out.

If you don’t know the waterway, proceed carefully and slowly, Maurer advised, and wear your life preserver.

“Stay away from the dam,” Maurer said, noting that anyone in the water near a dam is at the mercy of the churning, swift-moving water.

Firefighters launched their rescue boat even though Berns was safe. They collected debris and marked Berns’ 14-foot aluminum boat, which was submerged near the creek that enters the river near the former Panoramic building, Morovits said.

Last updated: 1:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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