Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department
On June 29, 1979, two boys, 12 and 14 years old, were out for an afternoon swim at Duncan Creek below the Glen Lock Dam in Chippewa Falls. Duncan Creek was rising more than six inches each hour because of the movement of floodwater, which hit Bloomer earlier that morning.
The 12-year-old boy had walked along the ledge of the dam by the rocks on the Irving Park side of the creek and then swam about 10 feet to the second ledge of the dam, which was covered by a rock overhang. Once out on the ledge, the boy was afraid to swim back to where he started because of the churning water caused by the increasing volume of floodwater. The 14-year-old swam out to his friend’s location to assist him, but once out there, neither boy was able to swim back to a safe location. Rescue personnel were summoned by bystanders to rescue the boys. At about 2pm, several rescue attempts to reach the boys were tried but failed. Reserve Sheriff’s deputy David Gee and a Chippewa County Deputy cautiously made their way along the ledge of the dam and proceeded to swim to the second ledge. Reserve Deputy Gee, wearing just a life vest and with a simple manila rope tied around his waist, was able to get ahold of the 12-year-old around his waist. The two then ended up in the turbulent water and were pulled under by the undertow that had been created by the rushing floodwaters. Finally, other rescue personnel were able to pull them back downstream and to shore using the rope.
Attempt after attempt was made to rescue the 14-year-old. During one of these rescue attempts, the youth plunged into the water. Initially, rescue workers feared the youth was lost, however the current carried the youth back to the rocks and he was able to grab onto the ledge of the dam.
Reserve Deputy Gee again with a rope tied around him, made his way along the dam’s ledge into the cold water. The 14-year-old boy was able to grab onto the rope and Reserve Deputy Gee was able to grab the youth. The other rescue workers again pulled both to safety. Reports indicate that the water was already up to the youth’s neck, and within another hour, the boys most likely would have drowned. Reserve Deputy Fee, for his efforts, was left for several weeks with burn marks around his waist where the rope that had been tied to him had burned into his skin.
The effort of the entire group of ambulance personnel and other emergency service workers was instrumental in saving these two youths from certain drowning. However, Reserve Deputy Gee displayed exemplary actions of bravery that afternoon that led to the successful rescue of these two boys.