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Teens’ duck-hunting trip takes dangerous turn in choppy waters

Calm waters and sunny skies are seen on Lake Juliette from the Dames Ferry Park boat dock Saturday. But earlier, three young duck hunters had to be rescued after their boat overturned in choppy waters.
Calm waters and sunny skies are seen on Lake Juliette from the Dames Ferry Park boat dock Saturday. But earlier, three young duck hunters had to be rescued after their boat overturned in choppy waters. Andrea Honaker

Three young duck hunters and a dog were rescued from Lake Juliette in Monroe County early Saturday morning.

Choppy waters and high winds caused the teenage boys’ jon boat to fill with water and overturn. They couldn’t swim and hung onto the side of the boat, said Monroe County Emergency Management Agency Director Matthew Perry.

The teens called for help on a cellphone at 5:30 a.m. and communicated with dispatchers until the phone battery died, said Monroe County Fire Department Battalion Chief John Johnson. Emergency workers used surface water rescue techniques to locate the teens in the middle of the lake.

“After we got the boats in water, we had a time delay because of the extreme fog. Visibility was zero,” Johnson said.

The teens were in the water for more than an hour, Perry said. All three were wearing hunting/fishing waders, and water had poured into one of the boys’ waders, weighing him down and submerging him up to his chest, Johnson said.

He was taken to the Medical Center, Navicent Health, with extreme hypothermia and has a very good chance of survival. The other two were evaluated at the scene and released. None of them lost consciousness or were unresponsive at any point.

It’s not unusual for duck hunters to be on Lake Juliette in the early morning hours. Many camp out there the night before to get the best spot on the lake in the morning, and that’s what the three teens had done. Many other boats were out at the time of incident, but none in close proximity to the teens.

Paul Pancake, of Macon, goes duck hunting every weekend in his canoe. He got to the lake at 1 a.m. Saturday and saw emergency crews searching for the boys later that morning.

Duck hunters “live for” days when the weather is like it was Saturday, Pancake said. Hard northeast winds and northern storms often push new birds into the area. But, the rough waters can be dangerous for even a seasoned hunter if they’re not prepared, he said.

“You can get yourself in a bad way in the water quickly,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it.”

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

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