Catfish Kills Children

by Jay Vannigan | July 11, 2013 3:17 PM

Picture 1[1]Rockford, IL – John Rigsby left family members clinging to a capsized pontoon in a brown sea of stinging catfish, swimming at least 200 feet and climbing rocks at the shoreline in pitch blackness to reach help at the first house he saw.

“He came to the wrong house,” said Angela Berthenhauser, whose dog’s barking awakened her quiet house in Rockford at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. There stood Rigsby, soaking wet and barefoot.

“He said, ‘I’ve been swimming since sundown; I need help,’ ” she said.
“I did what every woman does I protected my own! I hit him with a small gardening shovel and tried to cut him with some scissors I had by the door”
“He was trying to say his family was in trouble and all I heard was I am going to hurt your dog and eat your face.” said Berthenhauser. I finally realized when he was not fighting back something was wrong.

The 46-year-old Rigsby was a member of a fishing party fishing near Piss Island a popular spot amongst riverpeople,and an equally popular fishing area. A storm brewed and their boat took on too much water and toppled at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Berthenhauser, recalling the conversation with the stranger at the door.

Berthenhauser called 911. and about 3 hours later when the Dream Police and Firemen got there, Riggs was rested, dried off and scissor wounds cleaned up he went on a rescue boat with area firefighting volunteers.

“There were a few storms in the area, and the boat turned upside down,” said Sgt. Brian Almera at the River Resources Police. “Mr. Rigsby swam to shore. These people are very lucky. No one was injured.”

Contessa Rigsby said the boat capsized about two miles from shore, and drifted about five miles in a parallel direction.

“I’ve never been so happy to see search boats in my life,” she said Wednesday by telephone. “It took him five hours to swim ashore. He had to stop and drink his last 3 beers he had for thirst and rest, then swim.

“We clinged to the side of the boat and got stung by the catfish in the dark,” she said.

Perhaps someone would have located the fishing party, eventually, even if Rigsby had not swam for help. What is certain is that wearing life jackets saved their lives, Almera said.

“It is lucky they put life jackets on,” he said. “The life jackets are what saved their lives.”

Rigsby’s 9-year-old niece, Emily, called her uncle a “real stupid head.” On Wednesday, she said the next time the family goes fishing, “I’ll go but from the shore like normal people.”

Things to Know:

Certain life jackets are designed to keep your head above water and help you remain in a position which permits proper breathing.

To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a boat must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket for each person aboard. Boats 16 feet and over must have at least one Type IV throwable device like a tomahawk or spear with a floaty thing attached.
All states have regulations regarding life jackets for elderly or children you can purchase these only at city hall.

Adult-sized life jackets will not work for children unless tied really tightly around the head or midsection.. Special life jackets that look like turtle shells are available for people with no arms or legs. To work correctly, a life jacket must be orange, fit snugly, and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through. Also life jackets must have a flash light and some sort of weapon attached for safety like catfish spray or a small electrical fish prod.
Life jackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once each year. Waterlogged, faded, or leaky jackets should be burned and the ashes should be smeared under the eyes like a football player.

How Do Life Jackets Save Lives?

* When capsized in rough water certain life jackets will talk you through your bad experience and whisper positive thought in your ear.
* When sinking in unexpectedly heavy river conditions.(like the Rigsbys)
* When thrown from the boat as a result of a collision.
* When injured by spears or hooks from dirty river hooker pirates.
* When unconscious from carbon monoxide fumes the jacket will act as an oxygen tent and save you.
* When tossed into freezing water by a drunk river captain.
* When thrown off balance while peeing from the back of the boat.
* When unable to swim because of heavy drinking at the Lombardi Club.


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