May 21, 1974 Carleton Place
A Smiths Falls woman and two children were swept one-half mile down the churning, swollen Mississippi River, over the Carleton Place dam and the Bates and Innis Falls Monday afternoon before being rescued unharmed.
“It was absolutely a miracle they survived,” said Sgt. Ray Mclsaac of the Carleton Place police. Hilda Gilligan and her six-year-old son Jeffrey, both of 18 Greg St., Smiths Falls, and Donna Porteous, 9, of 15 Condie St., Smiths Falls, set out in a rented aluminum boat about 5:50 p.m. At Findlay’s Foundry, about a quarter-mile upstream from the dam, the boat’s motor failed and they tried unsuccessfully to paddle to shore against the swift-flowing current. People along the shore noticed the three boaters in trouble and immediately called the fire department, but the firemen could only look on helplessly as the boat was carried downstream.
When the boat approached the Carleton Place dam, the children, who were wearing life jackets, jumped out and were carried over the dam. Mrs. Gilligan, still in the boat, also was swept over the dam and was rescued below the dam by Constable Bill Shane of the Carleton Place police. The children travelled another quarter-mile down the river, over the 15-foot-high falls and through the rapids.
There 21 -year-old Dale Machin, of 180 William St., waded into the water and grabbed Jeffrey. Mr. Machin threw the boy onto the shore, grabbed a neighbour’s small boat and paddled out to rescue the girl. The woman and two children were rushed to the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital but required no treatment and were released.
“Nobody thought they would come up alive,” said Sgt. Mclsaac. “The only reason they survived was that the current was travelling so quickly they didn’t touch bottom. They were just carried along on the crest of the water. It really was miraculous.”