McDonald County records major spike in water rescues over weekend

21 water rescues took place on Saturday alone

MCDONALD COUNTY, Mo. – The warm weather coupled with the holiday weekend drew a lot of people to area campgrounds and creeks.

Jesus Avila and his friends made the trip to Elk River from Fayetteville, and the only exposure they’re worried about is the sun.

“I feel like the outdoors is a great way to social distance. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” said Avila.

But there’s another danger out on the waters: drowning. Rain has made the river deep and the current fast.

“People don’t understand with the water as high as it is, it’s good for floating in a raft, but if they get in it and try to swim, the under currents and stuff can really get somebody trapped,” explained McDonald County Sheriff Michael Hall.

On Saturday alone, the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office along with the Noel Fire Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s water rescue team pulled out 21 people.

“We can’t remember a time we were this busy in 15 to 20 years,” said Hall.

The sheriff says being on Elk River can be dangerous, even if you’re a strong swimmer.

“Like our first one yesterday, she was trapped between the boat and the bridge and it was just the current was pushing and had her trapped in there, so just wearing life vests and being cautious and knowing your limitations,” Hall advised.

Children especially should wear life jackets, and even Avila says he plans on wearing his. For now, he’s looking forward to getting back to a more traditional summer, trying to put COVID-19 fears behind him.

“It’s been awhile since we have been able to do this, so thankfully we’re going back to normal a little bit with all the restrictions put in place, but it feels great,” said Avila.

The Noel Fire Department performed its 22nd water rescue for the weekend on Sunday.

Sheriff Hall says his team also responded to a snake bite and multiple alcohol-induced fights at area campgrounds.