UPDATE: ECPD says 3rd interview key to getting answers - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: ECPD says 3rd interview key to getting answers about river search

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire Police say a third interview was the key to getting the answers they needed this week about a river search.

Thursday, Andrew Wallace was arrested for obstructing an officer.  He's accused of lying to police, which led to a massive search and rescue effort on the water.

On Tuesday, Wallace said he was kayaking when he fell into the Chippewa River as he tried to rescue two men whose canoe had capsized.

Eau Claire Police say they had no reason to think his story wasn't true that day, they say his demeanor and emotions all seemed to be in line with what he told police. Officers say Wallace told them the same story the next day during a follow-up interview. They say they interviewed Wallace a third time when no missing persons report had been filed.  Police say that's when Wallace admitted he made it up.

"There's a safety factor in it. We had firefighters and safety personnel that were risking their own lives to go out on very dangerous water to presumably find people that were in distress. When in fact those people weren't out there, Mr. Wallace put those firefighters and other rescue personnel in a very dangerous situation," says Eau Claire Police Officer, Kyle Roder.

Police say they don't know how much the search and rescue effort cost, but the district attorney's office could eventually come up with a figure and ask for that to be paid by the suspect, if he's convicted. 

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The search for two canoeist is over because no one was ever missing.  Eau Claire police say a kayaker made up the whole thing.

Andrew Wallace was arrested Thursday afternoon for obstructing an officer.  On Tuesday, Wallace said he was kayaking when he fell into the Chippewa River as he tried to rescue two men whose canoe had capsized.

That report triggered a massive search from the air, ground and water.  There were no signs of the missing men or canoe, and there were no reports of anyone missing.  Police say Wallace, who lives in Manitowoc but often works in Eau Claire, did not have an answer when police asked him why he made the false report.  Over the years, suspects have sometimes been required to pay the cost of a search effort like this.  It's too early to tell whether he'll be forced to pay if he's convicted in the case.

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Eau Claire (Press Release) - On Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at 1:38 p.m., the Eau Claire Communication Center dispatched Eau Claire Police Department and Eau Claire Fire/Rescue personnel to the Chippewa River south of the Short Street Bridge for a kayaker in distress in the water.

The kayaker, Andrew M. Wallace, was located and indicated that he had overturned his kayak while attempting to rescue two canoeists in distress. He stated that those individuals were still in the river and had been swept downstream. This specific information provided by Wallace led to a multi-agency search for the two canoeists.

Personnel from Eau Claire Fire/Rescue, Township Fire/Rescue, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Mayo Clinic, Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department and Eau Claire Police Department all actively searched for the reportedly missing individuals.

Since the time of this initial report, the Eau Claire Police Department has conducted a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident. The investigation revealed that Andrew Wallace provided false information and that there were no canoeists present or in distress. As a result of the investigation, Andrew M. Wallace has been arrested for Obstructing an Officer.

Andrew M. Wallace
04/01/1983
847 N. 11th Street
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Charge:
Obstructing an Officer, WI State Statue 946.41(2)(a): "Whoever knowingly resists or obstructs an officer while such officer is doing any act in an official capacity and with lawful authority…knowingly giving false information to the officer…"

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Eau Claire (Press Release) - Due to weather conditions, search operations on the Chippewa River for the two missing canoeists have been suspended.

The conditions will continue to be monitored and operational decisions made accordingly.

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- Search and rescue crews were back on the water Wednesday but came up empty.  They're trying to find any sign of two young men who are believed to have disappeared in the Chippewa River Tuesday after their canoe capsized.

The Township Fire Department and the DNR assisted the Eau Claire Fire Department Wednesday. Now in the second day of the search, rescue teams are using sonar equipment to look underwater near the shoreline; a practice they will continue as the search progresses.

"They will be searching the river banks and they will be looking for possible what they call strainer situations where something can get hung up in the water," explains Eau Claire Fire Department Battalion Chief Bryon Benson.

Four boats were in the water for more than two hours before being pulled out shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The high water level and rushing current has become a challenge for search crews.

"Search teams were out on the river today.  However, they weren't able to find any new evidence," confirms Kyle Roder with the Eau Claire Police Department.

Police say the problem is they don't know who they are searching for. No missing persons' reports have been filed in the last two days.  The Eau Claire Police Department has been checking license plates of cars parked at area boat landings.

"We ran some license plates on vehicles that were parked in the vicinities and tried to contact the registered owners just to determine whether or not they may or may not have been the individuals in the river," Roder says.  "At this point, we don't have any information that helps us with the identity of those individuals."

Police are also asking for the public's help.

The Eau Claire Police Department has reached out to UW-Eau Claire for help, asking students if they've seen any others who are missing at this time or if they know of anybody who went canoeing on the Chippewa River on Tuesday.

"UW-Eau Claire obviously is a large population in this community and near the river so again we are reaching out to all of our resources and that's why the university is helping us to get that email out to students," explains Roder.

Authorities say if weather permits, they will most likely be back out on the water Thursday to continue the search.

Eau Claire Police believe the report is legitimate.  If you have any information on who these two men are, please call Eau Claire Police at (715) 839-6217.

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Press Release from the Eau Claire Police Department: On Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at 1:38 p.m., the Eau Claire Communication Center dispatched Eau Claire Police Department and Eau Claire Fire/Rescue personnel to the Chippewa River south of the Short Street Bridge for a kayaker in distress in the water.
Upon arrival the kayaker was located on the east shore of the river near Short Street. The kayaker advised that while paddling upstream he observed two males hanging onto the underside of a capsized canoe that was rapidly floating downstream. The kayaker threw a rope to the canoeists in an attempt to rescue them. During this time, the kayaker's kayak also overturned. At that point the kayaker lost sight of the males as their canoe continued downstream.
The canoeists were described as two white males, approximately 20 years of age. The canoe was described as possibly a silver aluminum canoe; however, the circumstances and conditions at the time made it difficult to establish clear descriptions of either.
Eau Claire Fire/Rescue, Township Fire/Rescue and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have all participated in the water search and rescue efforts, while a Mayo Clinic helicopter assisted from the air. Eau Claire Police Department and Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department personnel also assisted in this effort from the ground.
The Eau Claire Police Department has attempted to identify the canoeists; however, at this time their identities have not been determined. Anyone who was on the river yesterday afternoon or has information regarding the identities of the canoeists is asked to contact Eau Claire Police Department Detective Sgt. Mark Pieper at 715-839-6217.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The search has resumed for 2 canoeists who reportedly went missing in the Chippewa River after capsizing. Crews spent several hours searching the river Tuesday.

UW-Eau Claire sent an email Wednesday to students, staff and faculty that said:

The Eau Claire Police Department is currently investigating the possible disappearance of two male individuals who were canoeing on the Chippewa River yesterday (April 30, 2013). Witness statements indicate that the missing individuals were of college age. The police department is asking that if anyone has information on any person who may be missing or went canoeing on the river yesterday, to contact my office immediately or respond to my email.

WQOW News18 will have more information on our website as it becomes available and during our newscasts tonight.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Nearly eight hours after a search was launched, police say they have very little information about two young men who are believed to have disappeared in the Chippewa River. Police have no names, and say no missing persons reports have been filed.

Rescue boats were pulled from the water earlier Tuesday evening, after spending hours in a fast and dangerous search. When the call came in that there could be two young men in the water, crews sprang to action, in the air, water, and on the ground. 

The river search began just before two o'clock Tuesday. A kayaker saw two men, hanging onto a canoe that was capsized in the Chippewa River. That kayaker threw out a rope to try and help them, but the kayaker tipped over, and when he resurfaced, the two men were gone.

"He indicated that it was 2 males, approximately 20 years of age, in that age range," says Eau Claire Police Officer Kyle Roder.

That kayaker didn't want to go on camera, but said the river was moving so fast it took the shoes off his feet. And just like the river's current, the search progressed quickly, with Eau Claire crews calling in help from Township Fire Department, down river.

"We called them very rapidly because we knew it was going to be way south of Eau Claire in the river, and it could be down by Durand, you just don't know how fast these things move," says Eau Claire Fire Department Captain Tim Deziel.

An orange horseshoe style life-vest was found down river. Fire crews believe only one canoeist was wearing a life vest.

"It's extremely dangerous if you think about it, and that's the thing we can't stress enough: life preservers. Simple things as life preservers would make a huge difference," says Captain Deziel.

Even though we hit 80 degrees on Tuesday, the river is deceptively, and dangerously, cold.

"Just think about getting thrown a cup of ice water in your face, how startling that becomes, now you're talking about your whole body being immersed in water, it doesn't take long and things start becoming very numb and you're incapable of even trying to self-rescue," says Captain Deziel.

Eau Claire Police believe the report is legitimate. Crews are planning on searching the river Wednesday. Both Eau Claire Police and Fire say the river is extremely dangerous right now they are warning everyone to stay off the river, because the waters are so high, and moving so fast.

Police are also asking for the public's help.  They don't know who these young men are.  They're possibly in their twenties and were in an aluminum canoe.  Call police if you can help.  That number is (715) 839-4972.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire and Township Fire crews have called off their search for the night for 2 people who reportedly tipped over in a canoe in the Chippewa River. Crews spent hours searching up and down the Chippewa River Tuesday afternoon.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) – Rescue crews are searching for two people who reportedly tipped over in a canoe on the Chippewa River.

A kayaker told one of our reporters he saw two people holding onto a capsized canoe between the I-94 and Short Street bridges.  He tried to help them by tossing them a rope, but he capsized too.  By the time the kayaker resurfaced, the two people were gone.  The Eau Claire Fire Department and the Eau Claire Police Department are on scene searching.

Stay with WQOW News 18 as this story develops.

 

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