Drone helps in rescue of kayaker reported missing on the Des Moines River

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BOONE COUNTY, Iowa – The work of an off-duty Boone County Sheriff’s deputy operating a drone was instrumental in locating a kayaker who was reported missing on the Des Moines River Sunday night.

A 911 call came in at 8:47 p.m. Sunday about an 18-year-old kayaker who had become separated from his group. Detective Andy Godzicki of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office said there was an extra concern because members of the group had been drinking excessively throughout their float trip.

The group entered the river at the Highway 30 access earlier in the day. After getting the call, deputies and law enforcement officers from the Iowa State Patrol and the DNR were posted at river access points between there and where the group planned to get out near Ledges State Park.

Deputy Quinten Gustafson, one of the two BCSO employees certified to fly a drone, was off-duty at the time but dropped what he was doing to assist in the search. He operated the drone, which is equipped with thermal imaging, from an airboat belonging to the missing teen’s grandfather.

A kayak belonging to the teen was spotted from the drone around 11:10 p.m. and deputies located him in a wooded area along the river. He was heavily intoxicated but otherwise okay when he was found.

Deputies cited him for minor in possession of alcohol and he was released to family members.

Det. Godzicki says the search could have turned out much differently if it wasn’t for the drone and the department is grateful to have it.

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