An Elgin man was "very lucky" to come out unscathed Saturday after his inflatable vessel was swept over an 8- to 10-foot dam on the Fox River, firefighters said.
Mariano Valencia, 43, told authorities he was north of the Kimball Street bridge in Elgin in about 6:30 p.m. when a strong current pulled him past warning buoys, under the bridge and over the dam.
Elgin Fire Battalion Chief Bryan McMahan said Valencia dropped 8 to 10 feet into churning water, where he remained only a short time before several bystanders helped him to shore.
"He told us he didn't know how strong the current was and, before he knew it, he was headed over," McMahan said.
Valencia, who had been wearing a life jacket, "had no complaints" and declined medical treatment at the scene, according to firefighters. His small, inflatable boat was snagged by a fisherman and pulled out of the water.
McMahan said the rescue is a reminder to be mindful of warning buoys as well as river currents, which can be stronger than they appear.
"He was very lucky," McMahan said. "Usually, you can't get out of the boil once you're in it. You don't float well. You can't swim in it. Boat motors don't work in it."
He added that currents on some parts of the Fox River are especially dangerous right now because of recent rains.