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Boat Nearly Plunges Over Dam Across Fox River

Boat Nearly Plunges Over Dam Across Fox River

ALGONQUIN, Ill. (CBS) -- Rescue crews had to help a man and woman in a pontoon boat from going over the Algonquin Dam on the Fox River on Thursday afternoon, because a cable normally blocking boats from passing under the Route 62 bridge has not been in place for months.

Steve Leseth, his wife Grace, and their shih tzu Brie were on board their 20-foot pontoon boat on Wednesday afternoon when they got into trouble as they approached the Algonquin Dam.

They set out from Island Lake and were preparing to dock near Algonquin Road and have lunch at Port Edward Restaurant. Then Leseth heard a thump, and that's when the problems started.

"Well, I tried to restart the engine three times. It would not restart. I didn't know what the problem was. All I know is that boat started to take off towards the dam - like five times faster than I'd been driving all day," he said.

Leseth said the bridge was coming up fast, and the bridge was too low for his boat to fit.

"When I saw the canopy start to fold in half, I knew we were in serious trouble, and the wife was freaking out, and the dog's freaking out, and I'm trying to think, how am I going to save us from going over this dam?" Leseth said. "Luckily I had a tow rope to my right. I grabbed it, threw it over one of the beams on the bridge, wrapped it around three times, and latched it. Thank God that held us."

"And we had enough time to throw our life jackets on and wait for the fire department."

Leseth said they had time to put on life preservers and waited until the fire department came. His wife Grace ended up in the water briefly, managed to hand the dog to rescuers, and then they all finally ended up in the rescue boat.

One thing he and others are wondering: Why hasn't a cable - which was torn down by a snowmobiler over the winter - been put back to prevent this kind of accident?

Lee Ann Konitz, manager at Port Edward Restaurant, a riverside restaurant in Algonquin, said the thick cable that normally blocks the entire span of the bridge, was has been sitting in a nearby parking lot ever since it was broken.

"A couple weeks ago, we almost had a jet ski go over the side," she said.

Konitz said she has called police, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and other agencies to get someone to replace the cable, to no avail.

"All I'm doing is running around, trying to find somebody to get this cable put back up, and nobody seems to want to be responsible for it," she said. "I think that's crazy. What if somebody goes over that dam and gets seriously hurt? … Who's going to be responsible then?"

Konitz said there is an 8- or 9-foot drop just past the bridge, from the top of the dam, to the lower water below.

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