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Piers Gorge rafter drowns

August 8, 2012
By LISA M. HOFFMANN - Staff Writer , The Daily News

NORWAY - An Illinois man was the victim of a rafting fatality that occurred at Piers Gorge on Tuesday afternoon.

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello reported that on Tuesday at 1:41 p.m. his office received a 911 call reporting a missing rafter at Piers Gorge on the Menominee River.

The owner of Northwoods Adventure of Vulcan reported a male and female were thrown from a raft after striking a large rock in the rapids.

Article Photos

Rescue workers respond to Piers Gorge in Norway Township after a rafter fell and disappeared beneath the Menominee River whitewaters Tuesday afternoon. A passenger on a rafting tour, the victim’s body was found at approximately 4:30 p.m. For more photos, see
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo

Celello said the female was able to make her way out of the rapids, but the male was trapped by the current under the rock and never surfaced.

Rescue operations were immediately started by law enforcement and local fire and rescue teams.

Northwoods Adventures officials also contacted all area rafting companies for assistance because the river guides are all trained in white water rescue.

"Despite best efforts by rescuers, they were not able to access the area of the rapids where the man was reported to be trapped - until the water flow was reduced by the dam above the rapids," Celello said.

The dam that was shut down to assist in the rescue operation was at the Little Quinnesec Falls, which is owned by Northbrook Energies.

After the water level and flow were reduced, rescuers were able to reach the rock in the rapids. At 4:16 p.m., rescuers located the victim trapped under the rock.

He was taken to shore and pronounced dead at the scene and identified as 59-year-old Mark Fackler of Mundelein, Ill.

Fackler was wearing a life jacket and helmet at the time of the accident.

Located south of Norway, Piers Gorge features bedrock walls up to 70 feet high. Beneath them, the Menominee River channels through a passage just 80 feet wide.

The river, normally 300 feet wide, rushes and tumbles for about a mile and half over a series of four waterfalls.

Four rafting companies in the area offer guided whitewater trips down the Menominee River.

Tuesday's rafting fatality was just the second drowning in the Piers Gorge area of the Menominee River in the last six years.

Dickinson County Sheriff's Office was assisted by the Michigan State Police, Marinette County Sheriffs's Office, Norway Volunteer Fire Department, Breitung Township Fire, North Alert ambulance, Beacon Ambulance, American Red Cross, and river rescuers from area rafting companies.

Sheriff Celello thanked the numerous residents who helped and offered to help in the rescue.

Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is



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