1 dead, 1 rescued from Fox River in Geneva

Despite heroic efforts from bystanders and rescue workers, a man died Friday afternoon after becoming trapped in the Fox River below the Geneva dam.

Randy Suchy, 57, of Bolingbrook, was pronounced dead at Delnor Hospita in Geneva, Geneva Police Deputy Cmdr. Eric Passarelli said.

Passers-by on a church-group outing had helped pull Suchy and a 12-year-old boy from the Fox River. “We are holding them (their relatives) in our prayers,” said the Rev. Clint Roberts, one of the rescuers.

Roberts and five other men from Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville were riding along the Fox River Trail around 11:30 a.m. when he spotted two people below the dam. “I realized that they were in trouble,” he said, noting he had once been caught in a dam boil. “I realized that what we were seeing was not good.”

They and a police officer tried to bring a rescue line out from the bank, but by then the two had succumbed to exhaustion and sunk to the bottom of the dam. The boil then kicked Suchy and the boy out.

The bicyclists, police and some off-duty firefighters managed to grab the two about 150 to 200 feet downstream (north of the State Street Bridge), Passarelli said.

Roberts said one of his parishioners, Neil Goltermann, “really heroically ... threw himself across the rocks (in the river) to reach the boy ... he was absolutely determined to reach that boy.” Because Goltermann had taken off his shoes, he cut his feet on the rocks, requiring stitches, Roberts said.

Suchy and two 12-year-old boys were fishing off a tabletop rock below the dam, Passarelli said.

Witnesses stories' conflict, Passarelli said; some say one of the boys was trying to jump to another rock, but others say he fell into the river, Passarelli said. Suchy went in to try to save the boy. “I'm sure he (Suchy) did all he could,” Roberts said.

The bicyclists were on a three-day “Cycling Sabbath” bicycle ride from Naperville to Crystal Lake and DeKalb County.

Roberts and Brian Beaird tried to resuscitate Suchy, and Dan Pucci and Goltermann worked to revive the boy. The boy regained consciousness and was speaking before being taken to the hospital, Roberts said.

“We are grateful we were there and able to make a difference in at least one life,” said Roberts, who also praised the Geneva police and fire workers, saying the firefighters performed “gallantly.”

Roberts, as a teenager, nearly lost his life on the Susquehanna River, trying to rescue a friend who had gone over a similar dam. Roberts went into the river to save his friend and became caught in the boil. Another friend in a canoe managed to grab Roberts' head and hold it above water so he could breathe. Once Roberts caught his breath, he then dove to the bottom of the dam and pulled out his unconscious friend.

“I never forgot that experience,” Roberts said. People often fish south of the Geneva dam, a lowhead dam that extends bank to bank. And it is not unusual to see debris, such as soccer balls, caught in the boil for weeks on end. People are prohibited from being in the river 100 feet north of the dam and 50 feet south.

“It is very deceptive,” said Passarelli, who went into the river for the rescue. There are deep spots, and then “5 feet to the north, you are standing in water up to your ankles.” Rescuers were tripping on submerged logs and rocks.

“It is very important to respect the power of the river and the dam itself,” Passarelli said.

Ÿ Daily Herald staff photographer Laura Stoecker contributed to this story.

  The Rev. Clint Roberts and Dan Pucci of Naperville don their bike helmets to return home hours after helping rescue a man and a boy from the Fox River in Geneva Friday. Laura Stoecker/
  A man and older boy were rescued from a boil in the Geneva dam by a passing group of bicyclists from Naperville on Friday. The man, from Bolingbrook, later died, police said Friday night. Laura Stoecker/
  Dan Pucci of Naperville, one of four men who helped in a rescue of a man and older boy from the Fox River near the Geneva dam on Friday. Laura Stoecker/
  The Rev. Clint Roberts, of Naperville, one of four men who helped in a river rescue of a man and older boy from a boil in the Geneva dam on Friday. Roberts, pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville. Laura Stoecker/
  Brian Beaird, of Naperville, one of four men who helped Friday in a Fox River rescue of a man and 12-year-old from a boil in the Geneva dam. Laura Stoecker/