Stranded women thankful after drone-led rescue - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Stranded women thankful after drone-led rescue

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It was supposed to be a relaxing girls day with a few hours spent floating down the river for six women.

The women got to the Yellow River around 11:30 a.m. and when they got in the water the river was moving fast but then it started to change and began to slow down. From the Quad Cities area, none of the women had floated along the river before but had floated on many others in the past.

They said around six hours had gone by and they were only passing a sign saying they were entering the Effigy Mounds, meaning they had barely made it half way in a trip that was only supposed to last a few hours. Their tubes were barely moving so they started to swim.

"It got cold quick as soon as the sun went down," Dejah Ray said.

The water had started to get too cold and the women were tired from swimming.

"From looking at the map we knew it was going to be another six hours and it was going to be dark," Bernadean Beranek said.

Beranek, Ray, and Wendy Saathoff got separated from the three other women who were farther ahead of them in the river. 

"We were in a bad situation through and through," Saathoff said.

They climbed up the steep banks hoping that it would be faster by foot and planned to hike the rest of the way to the highway. Hours passed and they made little progress and couldn't go any further.

"There was just no way. You couldn't walk. A lot of high weeds nettle. Even in boots and pants it would have been hard," Ray said.

Throughout that time, they had tried to call for help but with limited phone service they had little luck. It wasn't until hours later that a 911 call would go through.

"I don't know if we hadn't been able to get help if we would have been okay," Ray said.

A drone was sent by the Decorah Volunteer Fire Department to help find them. At this point the sun had fully set and it was pitch black.

"The only light we had to go off of was the drone above us," Saathoff said. "You kind of felt like you were in a movie."

A radio was dropped from the drone so that they could communicate with the three of them until help came. Down river the other three women didn't know they had a radio but had seen and heard the drone and knew that help was on the way.

"They had chainsaws. They had to cut their way to us. They had to go over logs. We had to get out while they jumped their thing back over the logs to get out," Beranek said.

All said they were not only thankful just to have been saved.

"It was the way they did it. They really helped deescalate any fears that we have. They didn't make us feel like what were you doing down there. They made us feel comfortable and important and safe," Marisa Broom said. Broom was one of the other three women stranded farther down the river.

They said they took out an add in one of the local newspaper near the Yellow River hoping to thank the dozens of people that came out to help that night.

"Literally taking the shirts off their backs. I don't think they had enough blankets so one of them gave me their sweatshirts. It's just good humans," Saathoff said.

While the trip didn't go as plan come midnight it would come with a nice end of being rescued.

"We got our girls day in," Ray said.

With the exception of some bumps, scrapes, and too many mosquito bites to count; the women all went home uninjured. 


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