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Morgan's Canoe proposes warning system to stop drownings on Great, Little Miami rivers

Posted at 4:38 PM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-11 17:47:10-04

HAMILTON, Ohio -- For veteran kayakers like Orlando Stuart, the Great Miami River comes with a bad reputation.

"I spend zero time on this river," Stuart said.

He knows the danger, but it's not so obvious to others.

Benjamin Gipson, 29, disappeared on the river Sunday at the High-Main Street Bridge. He and another man, 35-year-old Wilbur Strobel, had borrowed kayaks from a friend for a day of fun on the water, according to Hamilton Fire Department Deputy Chief Ken Runyan.


Both were inexperienced, Runyan said, and neither was wearing a life jacket. They flipped when they went under the bridge.

A passing jet skier rescued Strobel, but search crews still hadn't found Gipson's body as of Monday afternoon.

It was the second suspected drowning reported in the Tri-State this weekend. A 17-year-old boy disappeared Saturday while trying to swim across the Little Miami River near Camp Dennison.


A little north of there, Morgan's Canoe and Outdoor Adventures was closed Monday. The Little Miami was high and muddy.

Dirk Morgan, who runs the popular family business, wants people to check river conditions before they go out on the water, and to carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved floatation device.

He also wants a simple system to warn people when local rivers become dangerous: 

  • Green would mean the river is safe; 
  • Yellow would highlight an elevated risk; and
  • red would mean it's too dangerous to be on the water.

He wants state officials to adopt the system. First, he's testing the waters with a proposal to get all liveries on the Little Miami on board. That would let river experts work out the kinks. The cost, he said, would be minimal compared to a lost life.

"We're not trying to kill anybody's fun. We’re trying to keep people from getting killed," Morgan said.