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Distressed canoeists story exposed as hoax

Police in Eau Claire say a kayaker who claimed that two canoeists vanished in the Chippewa River this week made the whole story up.

A 30-year-old Manitowoc man was arrested on a possible charge of obstructing an officer after rescuers spent parts of May 7 and 8 looking for the two non-existent canoeists. That was after the suspect said he saw two men clinging from a capsized canoe and tried throwing a rope to save them.

He then said his kayak tipped over - and the canoeists and their boat were swept downstream and disappeared. A helicopter from Eau Claire's Mayo Health System joined personnel from the state DNR and local law enforcement and fire departments in the search.

Officials said they fought high and choppy waters in their search efforts. Police said yesterday that their investigation showed that the canoe incident was all a hoax.

Eau Claire City Manager Russell Van Gompel wrote on Facebook that he's "extremely disappointed" if that's true. He said the responders put their own well-being at risk during the search. And Van Gompel said some people, quote, "don't appreciate the work of the fine employees who provide public safety for our citizens."

He said their service should never be taken for granted.