UPDATED: May 20 at 5:05 p.m.
The two kayakers are safe. Fire Chief Matthew Buckley said the two were able to make it out of the water on their own and are safe. Illinois Department of Natural Resources police are investigating. More details later.
Riverside police and firefighters, assisted by a Chicago/Cook County helicopter, and emergency personnel from neighboring agencies have so far been unable to locate two men who were last seen entering the Des Plaines River in kayaks at about 11:30 a.m. on May 20 near the First Avenue bridge and are now missing.
A witness flagged down a Riverside police officer around that time at the Barrypoint Road bridge, reporting he’d seen two capsized kayaks, one green and one blue, floating downstream with their oars nearby, but with no people in sight.
Meanwhile, Fire Chief Matthew Buckley, who was in the vicinity of Groveland Avenue just after 11:30 a.m., said a resident of that block saw two men exit the river at Forest Avenue, portage the boats around the bridge and then re-enter the water just south of the bridge.
The resident reportedly told Buckley he’d warned the men that the river, whose level was still well above flood stage Wednesday morning and whose current was moving very swiftly, was dangerous. The resident told Buckley that neither kayaker was wearing a life jacket.
However, the men reportedly ignored the warning, apparently saying their car was parked downstream. The resident took photos of the kayakers and turned the images over to police, who posted them on the Riverside Twitter feed, asking if anyone could confirm the two were safe.
Emergency personnel searched the river banks between Forest Avenue and 47th Street for signs of the men and also used a drone and called in the Chicago/Cook County police helicopter to conduct aerial searches.
Buckley said firefighters did not deploy their boats due to the strong current.
“We’ve searched everything we can at this point by land and air,” said Buckley at about 1:20 p.m. “It’s just too dangerous to put the boats in with this current.”
It’s possible the two men were able to exit the water on their own between Forest Avenue and Barrypoint Road, but so far officials have no idea whether that happened and are hoping they’ll receive word from the men.