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Another river rescue prompts new warnings and calls for signage

For the second weekend in a row, two kayakers wound up caught in the low-head dam off Westfield Boulevard near 71st Street.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The chief of special operations for the Indianapolis Fire Department is beside himself following yet another river rescue. And, for the second weekend in a row, two kayakers wound up caught in the low head dam off Westfield Boulevard near 71st Street.

"It's really unprecedented for us, we haven't known this in recent history," Kevin Jones said.

For weeks now, Jones and others have been warning people to "stay off the river when it's at flood stage or even high. Even if your are experienced there are hazards and the river is always changing."

Clearly people aren't heeding the advice. Will warning signs help get their attention. Jones is among those saying they have to give it a shot.

"If you put signage up, I would say put it 300 feet ahead of low head dams...It could give us one more avenue to reach people to say, 'hey, there's a hazard ahead. You need to avoid this at all costs. It's extremely dangerous.'

You might be asking, why aren't there signs already in place? Republican City County Councilor Colleen Fanning sure was.

"Yeah, I'm very surprised," Fanning said. "We use it all the time, but those who use it, sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees but it is surprising when you see the lack of signage for such dangerous conditions."

Perhaps not when you consider there's no law requiring signs and until now, no people pushing for them. But as Jones said the number of rescues this summer is "unprecedented."

Fanning is also intent on seeing signs go up.

"It's not an expensive thing," she said. "I can't imagine Citizens wouldn't be a welcome partner."

Citizens Energy owns the dam and nearly five acres around the dam. A spokesman for the utility said they'd be fine with signs, but signs upstream would require permission from private property owners.

Kevin Hardie, executive director of Friends of the White River, doubts that will be a problem. The river has become a popular source of recreation.

"More people are using the river and more people will be with varying levels of skill and knowledge," he said, "But personal responsibility also comes into play and no sign can replace good judgment in the end."

Fanning said she's meeting with a group this week on ways to fast-track the signs.

She's hopeful they will be able to a plan in place and the signs up quickly.

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