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Kayaker, missing overnight, found unharmed

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news River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Rescuers used kayaks and a helicopter to find a 16-year-old kayaker, missing on the Kinnickinnic River for several hours overnight.

Searchers reached the boy shortly after 3 a.m. this morning after Minnesota State Patrol officers in a helicopter spotted a campfire along the river southwest of River Falls at 2:40 a.m. About half an hour later members of the River Falls Fire Department walked in and identified the boy as the missing teen.

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He was uninjured and was reunited with his parents, according to a press release from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

"We had four people floating the river," said River Falls Fire Chief Chris Cernohous. He said firefighters went out in four privately owned kayaks while other teams walked both sides of the river.

At 11:26 p.m. Monday the Pierce County Sheriff's Department received a call from the father of a 16-year-old Roberts boy who had left Glen Park in a kayak, planning to travel the Kinnickinnic. The father had last spoken to his son shortly after 6 p.m. The boy intended to kayak for awhile, then get off the river and call his dad for a ride home. But the teen never called.

River Falls police officers and Pierce sheriff's deputies began to search the area but found nothing.

At about 1:30 a.m. his department and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter crew were called in, said Cernohous. He said officers met, set up a plan and began the search and rescue operation.

Four firefighters in kayaks started at the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic and started searching from there while the helicopter began its search at Kinnickinnic State Park.

When the helicopter crew saw what appeared to be a campfire with a person nearby, firemen drove to a location near the area and walked to the campfire site.

"That happened to be the person we were looking for," said Cernohous.

He said the boy had started his trip later than he planned. When it got dark on the river, he headed for the bank and waited.

Cernohous said the teen was found about a third of the way from River Falls to County Road F.

"It was good," said the fire chief of the outcome. "(But) we've got some training opportunities to work on."

He said with more people kayaking the Kinnickinnic, the department, which relied on private kayaks this time, intends to raise money to buy its own.

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