Family says two victims in Milan Rock River boating accident are cousins

Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 11:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

in a boating accident on the Rock River in Milan Sunday afternoon.

The victims of Sunday's accident

21-year-old Alondra Acosta and 16-year-old Alexander Ravelingeen, both of Kewanee.

The sister of Ravelingeen confirmed to TV6 that Acosta and Ravelingeen are cousins.

Officials with the IDNR said other occupants on the boat were a 27-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy, also both from Kewanee. As of Monday, IDNR did not have an update on their conditions.

According to family, all four people on board were related.

Family members have set up a GoFundMe for

and a GoFundMe has also been created for

You can visit the links to each fundraiser by clicking on their name.

The two victims, as well as two other family members, were on the Rock River Sunday afternoon. Rock Island Fire Dept. officials said around 1:24 p.m. a call came into their dispatch about a boat in distress.

According to officials, their boat was launched in the area of the Backwater Gamblers site in Rock Island, but shortly after, its engine lost power. The boat continued to float until it reached the Steel Dam, but the current forced it over, causing the boat to eventually overturn.

By the time rescue crews arrived and reached the boat's passengers, according to the Rock Island Fire Department, two people were in the water and two others were with the boat.

All four people were transported to the hospital, with officials later announcing the deaths of Ravelingeen and Acosta.

Fire officials confirmed all four were wearing life jackets at the time of the accident.

Sergeant Anthony Petreikis of the Illinois Conservation Police told TV6 the Steel Dam has caused problems for many years, leading to accidents. Some of them have been fatal.

"I will be retiring soon, and there's nothing more frustrating for me than this dam," Petreikis said. "You know, year after year, or skip a year, and hit a year, whatever it ends up being, you know. Repetitively."

He explained there have been at least four fatalities on the Rock River at the Steel Dam in the last six or seven years, including the death of a

According to Petreikis, the area where the Steel Dam is located is in a difficult spot for rescue crews. He explained to TV6 there are many obstacles, including the dam itself. Petreikis said downstream, if the water is high, any boat with an upper apparatus on it cannot make it under the bridges to the dam if someone needs rescuing.

He also said low water presents a challenge for officials because of the obstructions in the way as crews attempt to reach the dam.

"Even yesterday in our boat as we were trying to recover the boat, we would hit obstructions in the water, you know rocks and stuff in the river," Petreikis said. "The launch for boats is also not immediately near the dam."

Another challenge faced by rescue crews in this area, Petreikis said, is "as soon as you get within about 10 yards or 15 yards, on either side of the dam, you have literally just put your life within risk because if you are too close on the downstream side, it's gonna pull you into the dam."

Petreikis said above the dam there are markers and a set of chain buoys, as well as land markers that give warning to the dam being present. However, he said, 50-60 foot trees often travel down the river, which would make it challenging to have something that stops boaters entirely from reaching the dam.

"The reality is tomorrow or the next day there's going to be a huge tree or a huge log or something that comes down and so no matter what you put across it, it's not gonna fix the problem," Petreikis said. "It's going to get torn out whether it's the high water or there's gonna be low water so somebody's going to go under it."

"I'm not an engineer, but It just seems like something needs to be done with the dam itself to eliminate the hazard because otherwise, the hazard will forever be here," he said. "It's just a matter of time. How long before everybody's gonna respond here again?"

Petreikis said all boaters should have an anchor on their boat that matches the body of water, such as a river, and that people should always anchor off the bow. He said it is important as people consider heading out to be prepared for anything.

Officials with the Kewanee School District

which reads, in part, "We were excited for the upcoming school year and looking forward to Alex's junior year. He was scheduled to take driver's education behind the wheel this summer. His loss saddens all of us and he will be missed as a part of the Kewanee High School family." School officials said counselors and social workers are available remotely to people deal with the sudden loss.

Ravelingeen, school officials say, was set to enter his junior year of high school. Acosta is a former student at Kewanee High School.