A Canoe Capsizes on the Rhine: Searches to Find a Girl Suspended

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A canoe capsizes on the Rhine: searches to find a girl suspended

Thursday 30th May, 2019, an inflatable boat capsized in Gerstheim (Bas-Rhin) and three people died. The operations to find a girl are suspended tonight.

Imprudence or unconsciousness of danger? The capsizing of a rubber dinghy on the Rhine , in a no-go zone, claimed the lives of three people Thursday, May 30, 2019 and the search for a 4-year-old girl was suspended at 5:30 pm.

The research will resume Saturday at 9am, told AFP the Bas – Rhin prefecture.

“Two boats will go up the French and German banks from Strasbourg to the place of the accident.”

With a helicopter and a drone

The fluvial brigade requested the support of a drone, “for better visibility”, according to the prefecture.

Friday, searches, interrupted the previous day at 20h, continued in this border area located 25 kilometers south of Strasbourg, under the coordination of the fluvial company of the Gendarmerie du Rhin, a binational unit.

A police helicopter from Baden-Württemberg flew over the Rhine.

“We can assume that a body could be seen from the air. There is a slight current but the visibility is pretty good. This allows us to target areas before using the divers, ” Nadia Boughani, second in command of the French – German river company , told AFP .

On four small boats, a dozen French police and German police inspected the banks of the river and their nooks and crannies, French side and German side, to the southern entrance of the Alsatian capital.

Two divers searched vegetation that was very common on the surface.

The day before, more than 120 rescuers and gendarmes had been mobilized in France and Germany to help the victims of the accident and then try to find the missing girl. Divers had probed the river, in vain.

No lifejackets

The tragedy was tied to an un-canalized arm of the Rhine , called the “Old Rhine”, near a small waterfall, downstream of the dam of the Gerstheim hydroelectric power station (Bas-Rhin).

A group of seven people, residing in Germany, of Romanian and German nationalities – for children – had settled on the banks of the Old Rhine, on the French shore, for fishing and picnicking. In the late morning, the inflatable boat on which two men and two girls of 4 and 6 years old had taken place capsized.

View of the Rhine at Gerstheim in eastern France on May 31, 2019
View of the Rhine at Gerstheim in eastern France on May 31, 2019. (© AFP / FREDERICK FLORIN)

“Use of beach gears and pneumatic boats prohibited near dams and fixed thresholds”, “bathing, navigation, crossing prohibited”: in the area where the accident occurred, warning signs, in French and German, against the dangers of nautical activities are however numerous.

According to statements by the secretary general of the prefecture, Yves Séguy, to the newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace , the passengers of the canoe were not wearing lifejackets and were in a sector “prohibited to fishing, banned from swimming and to nautical activities “.

The three people on the riverbank jumped into the water to help the passengers.

Between 120 and 150 firemen and gendarmes mobilized

The human toll is very heavy: besides the 6-year-old girl and a 29-year-old man on board the boat, a 22-year-old man who had jumped into the water also died.

The second adult who had taken a seat in the boat was transported to Selestat hospital on Thursday. The two other witnesses to the accident who jumped into the water managed to get back to the shore safe and sound.

“The water seems calm but there are currents” because “the Rhine is still falling to Strasbourg, it is not in its bed of plain”, explained to the AFP the mayor (LR) of Gerstheim, Laurence Muller-Bronn.

The danger exists but we do not realise it, we always believe that it happens only to others.”

Location of Gerstheim (Bas-Rhin) where three people died Thursday after the capsizing of an inflatable boat on the Rhine.
Location of Gerstheim (Bas-Rhin) where three people died Thursday after the capsizing of an inflatable boat on the Rhine. (© AFP /)

The dam of the hydroelectric plant, upstream of the accident site, “functioned normally. There was no special event “Thursday, told AFP the communication department of EDF.

“There is a culture of safety and information around EDF’s hydraulic fleet. During the summer, we deploy ‘hydro-guides’ who meet people to raise awareness of potential dangers, “said EDF. Thursday afternoon, EDF modulated the power of the dam water to facilitate research.

According to Mrs Muller-Bronn, many people, especially from Eastern Europe, come from Germany to fish in this area, because of the lower cost of the fishing license in France.

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