DNR: Fisherman drowns in Ohio River Monday afternoon - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

DNR: Fisherman drowns in Ohio River Monday afternoon

By Nathan Ryder - bio | email | Twitter
Posted by Sarah Harlan - email

NEWBURGH, IN (WFIE) - The Vanderburgh County Coroner's office identified the fisherman who died Monday after a boating accident at the Newburgh Lock and Dam as 55-year-old Douglas Morefield of Evansville.

Investigators say Douglas Morefield drowned in the Ohio River Monday afternoon.

Morefield was the father of one of the victims at Eastbrook Mobile Home Park in the November 6, 2005 tornado.

His daughter, Brandy Morefield died in the twister.

Brandy was an organ donor and 14 News is told Douglas was too.

The other fisherman, Mark Wilson, 50, of Boonville, is still hospitalized at St. Mary's.

Investigators are still working to piece together the circumstances that took the two fishermen from enjoying a sunny spring day out on the river to tragedy in just a matter of minutes.

Danny Hape, Steve Hape, and Fred Nenneke, all from Evansville, attempted to aid the fishermen.

It was the keen eyes of the three fisherman on board a boat in the Ohio River near the Newburgh locks and dam that realized two other men fishing closer to the dam were in trouble.

"Initially, when we left we knew we had a rescue of subjects on a boat so we went into a rescue mode as opposed to a dive or recovery mode," Assistant Chief Chad Bennett with the Newburgh Fire Dept. said.

Their 9-1-1 call led a slew of first responders to set up on the banks of the Old Lock and Dam Park and halted barge traffic on the Ohio River as the Newburgh locks were shut down.

"They shut the traffic down for us and because of where this rescue was they actually closed a portion of the lock gates which they don't normally do but because we had rescue personnel in there they did that for us," Bennett said.

Indiana conservation officers said the victim's boat was overcome by the strong current flowing out of the ninth lock.

"When the water comes over that 9th gate, most of it will go downstream but some of it will shoot over to the Kentucky side and make a circle," Indiana Conservation Officer Mike Kellner said.

It was that eddy, or circle of water, that trapped the boat up against the face of the dam where the turbulent water swamped the boat and dumped both men into the frigid water, fighting for their lives.

"You could have 10 life jackets on and you've still got problems," Kellner said. "The dam will eat boats. The dam will eat people and anything else that gets up against that face under certain conditions."

After being in the water for 40 minutes, rescuers were able to get the two victims away from the dam and rushed both to St. Mary's Medical Center.

Conservation officers said this accident is a grim reminder for anyone who recreates on the river.

"This river has a lot of things you have to respect, one of which is the dam," Kellner said. "Anybody can get caught up in the recreation of the day and forget about the hazards out here."

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