Man cited after boat capsizes in Mississippi River - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Man cited after boat capsizes in Mississippi River

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Photo Courtesy: Pat Taylor Photo Courtesy: Pat Taylor
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Kenny Mills and his family were wrapping up a day of boating on the Mississippi River Saturday afternoon when the wake from a nearby vessel swept water into his boat, causing it to sink and eventually capsize.

That happened around 4:20 p.m. Saturday, just under the Julien Dubuque/Highway 20 bridge.

"The current was just taking us down river, and my first instinct was, 'Where is this boat going to go?' and 'Are these guys all safe?' and 'Everybody have a life jacket?' and 'Everybody safe?'" Mills recalled Monday at his Dubuque home. "I didn't know what to do. It was a bad experience."

In the boat with Mills were his wife Lynda, their three children and their daughter's boyfriend.

Levi Mills is one of the Mills' sons. He said Monday he'd never before experienced anything like that.

"We were all flailing in the water down there to make sure everybody could see us," he said. "Everything scattered out of the boat. I mean, a few of us went over to grab what we could, and then all of a sudden, like I said, we were in there for four minutes and rescuers came and got us, thank God for them for knowing what they were doing and everything."

Jay Camp was on the Spirit of Dubuque Mississippi River cruise boat Saturday afternoon as part of a family reunion. He spotted the six adults floating in the water and went to alert the Spirit of Dubuque's captain.

"I ran up to the captain's quarters and pounded on the window and let them know, 'Hey, there are people in the river,'" Camp told KWWL Monday in a phone interview from Chicago, where he lives.

The captain then turned the Spirit of Dubuque and headed toward the capsized boat.

Altogether, three boats responded to the scene, each rescuing two people.

Now, an empty boat trailer sits in the Mills' yard, reminding them of what happened Saturday on their 16-foot Evinrude, which was also rescued but badly damaged.

"It holds six (people)." Kenny Mills said. "That's what we had in the boat and didn't figure it was overweight, but it may have been with the coolers and stuff in it."

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is the agency dealing with this incident. Conservation police sergeant Robert Frazier said the Illinois DNR is citing Mills with operating an overloaded watercraft, improper passenger riding on the gunnels (side of the boat), pollution of waterway and leaving the scene. These citations come with fines and not with any possibility of incarceration. Mills said he plans on fighting them.

Frazier said Kenny Mills left the scene for two hours after being rescued. He eventually returned to retrieve his boat.

Mills said he was flustered after being rescued and didn't know what to do. He said his daughter remained on the scene following the rescue.

The family members lost virtually everything to the Mighty Mississippi, including cell phones and wallets. Despite that, they say they are thankful for the three boats that came to their rescue.

Levi Mills said he's also grateful his 8-year-old daughter, Kylee Mills, wasn't on the boat with them at the time, as she often comes along on family boating trips.

"We're fortunate that she wasn't with us at the time because it was pretty frightful," Mills said.

Kenny Mills said he'd recently bought the boat and this was only the second time he'd taken it out. The Illinois DNR said the boat was a 1964 Evinrude.

Mills said the wave that overwhelmed his boat came from the combined wake of a barge and the Spirit of Dubuque, which was heading back into the Ice Harbor at the end of a cruise.

Walt Webster, co-owner of Dubuque River Rides, which operates the Spirit of Dubuque, said his boat had nothing to do with Mills' boat capsizing. Webster said the Spirit of Dubuque was far enough away from Mills' boat and was going slow enough that it's impossible his boat played into the sinking. Webster said his staff members informed him it was a speed boat passing near Mills' boat that created the wake that washed water into the boat.

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