A group of pleasure boaters on the Mississippi River Sunday morning thought they were going out for a leisurely ride, but ended up with a stranded boat and no safe place to land because the dock at the Red Star River Access collapsed.
Delilah Tayloe was among the party of six who left Cape Girardeau headed for lunch in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., aboard a ski boat. Shortly after the trip got started, the boat's engine gave out. The passengers tried to steer the boat to the Illinois side of the river so they could stay out of the way of a barge coming downriver.
"After a frantic search for a paddle, I knew it wouldn't be long before we were down to the Bill Emerson Bridge and beyond because we couldn't make it back across the river," Tayloe said.
She donned a life vest, jumped into the water and started to pull the boat across as others on board used the paddle to steer.
As the group made it closer to the Red Star River Access, they hoped to get the boat to the dock. But there were some complications.
"It's hard to walk on the rocks and the lines kept getting tangled on the rocks," she said. The group tried to keep the boat from running aground. Another passenger got into the water and a bicyclist passing by came to the water's edge to help steer the boat in. As they were guiding the boat around the L-shaped wooden dock and neared the bend, another passenger got out of the boat to help.
As soon as he stepped onto the dock, which was by now holding three people, the wood caved in, Tayloe said. All three people fell into the water and were positioned between the rocks and the boat.
"Luckily the only casualties were a few scraped shins and a cell phone," Tayloe said. "God was watching over us. It was a Sunday morning and we were in his cathedral of nature."
Tayloe said the party called 911 and didn't get through so she stopped by the Cape Girardeau police station to notify them of the problem with the dock.
The dock is maintained by the Honker's Boat Club and owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The access ramp to the Mississippi River remains open but boaters should use caution since there isn't a dock in place, said Joe Garvey with the Conservation Department office in Cape Girardeau.
There haven't been any decisions yet about when the dock will be replaced or how it might be reconstructed, he said. "Putting anything on the Mississippi River can be tricky."
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