Recovery efforts will continue once water levels subside
(May 16, 2020) — Search efforts concluded Saturday night without finding the 18-year-old autistic West Chicago woman swept away by the West Branch DuPage River in Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve
in Winfield Friday night.
More than 100 search and rescue personnel and volunteers scoured the West Branch DuPage River from Winfield to Warrenville on Saturday, including using boats equipped with sonar and infrared-equipped underwater drones, according to Tony Martinez, director of community relations at the DuPage Forest Preserve District.
Once water levels subside and the weather is more conducive, recovery efforts will resume with assistance from partnering agencies, Martinez said.
Teams searched Friday night until almost midnight, then resumed Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Our hearts go out to the family at this tragic time,” said DuPage Forest Preserve District Police Chief David Pederson. “We are very appreciative for all the help we have received from the numerous agencies and volunteers who assisted in this exhaustive search.”
The woman was walking two dogs at about 6 p.m. Friday when she crossed a flooded-out pedestrian bridge at Winfield Mounds and was swept away by the current, Martinez said. The incident occurred just west of Winfield Road and south of Geneva Road.
A witness riding his bicycle nearby said he saw the woman get swept away by the current as she walked through waist-high water on the bridge and tried to assist her until he lost sight of her as she was swept away.
Emergency responders from more than a dozen communities searched for the woman Friday night using boats, divers, drones, thermal imaging and helicopters while her family watched nearby.
Rescuers recovered one of the dogs alive but did not find the woman or the other dog before calling off the search for the evening at about 11 p.m. Friday.
“We encourage people to exercise caution with floodwaters and to play it safe,” Martinez said. “Water is deceiving and very powerful.”
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Tony Martinez, Community Relations
DuPage Forest Preserve District 630-740-3994