STOUGHTON (WKOW) — John Kinnamon has fished along the Stoughton Mill Pond for the past 50 years but last Wednesday, he said, was the first time he felt the need to leap into action.
He said two kayakers were making their way towards the dam near the 4th Street bridge and he said it appeared they wanted to get to shore so they could get out and walk around the gates, but one looked like she wasn’t going to make it.
"I saw one of the kayakers going in front of the dam, real close to the dam, I suspected something was gonna happen so I started running," Kinnamon said.
He said her kayak looked like it was caught in the current then it flipped, leaving the woman floating towards the dam.
"By the time I got about halfway up to the dam, she had come up under the dam and popped up into the fast water," Kinnamon said.
He said he moved to the shore to help her as the current carried her that way. She was able to make it out of the water on her own, but he said she was very bruised and swallowed a lot of water.
"She was just standing there shaking, coughing, spitting up water," he said.
According to the Stoughton Police Department, officers arrived after the woman was out of the water. They said she declined medical attention and simply wanted to get home. Kinnamon said a city worker arrived and drove the woman and the other kayaker back to their car.
Kinnamon said at the time, the dam gates were very high, as was the water level in the Yahara River, after all of the rain over the past couple of weeks.
"This is the highest and the fastest I’ve seen the water in 50 years," he said.
According to Deputy Jeff Nelson with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, this high water is especially dangerous in rivers where the heavy flow can make conditions difficult to predict.
"The current’s flowing faster, there’s more flow down it and you gotta watch what you’re doing because of that," he said. "Things move faster."
He asks anyone heading near these rivers to take extra precautions and advises anyone going out on any of our waterways to make sure you have all the safety equipment you need.
According to Kinnamon, the kayaker involved in this incident was wearing a life jacket.
Since the kayak flipped near the dam, he said the access points near the dam have been blocked and he said there are more "Danger" signs in the area.