Gasconade River boating tragedy brings hard lessons

48 year-old Larry Hennier was killed in a boating accident Saturday, along with 25 year-old Mary "Corrie" Talken.

As communities along the Gasconade River grieve the loss of two people who died in a boating accident over Fourth of July weekend, Freeburg residents say the river itself played a big role in the crash.

15 year-old Noah Boehm said during his times on the river, he faces a slew of hazards. â??Some of the narrow passagesâ?¦ they call it the â??s-curveâ??. Itâ??s real narrow, you canâ??t see around it, itâ??s a bad spot,â?? Boehm said. â??Thereâ??s really not that many narrow passages, but thereâ??s a lot of straight stretches. A lot of people like to go fast down them.â??

Boehm and other Freeburg residents said one of the biggest dangers facing boaters is the riverâ??s shallow bed. Boaters who drive certain types of motor watercraft on the river must maintain a high rate of speed to avoid getting stuck in the Gasconadeâ??s sandy bottom.

Boater Kevin Lang said the deaths of 25 year-old Corrie Talken and 48 year-old Larry Hennier have deeply affected his feelings toward boating on the Gasconade. He said after what happened over the weekend, he will never go back on the Gasconade again.

â??To be quite honest, I would rather walk across I-70 at night, blindfolded,â?? Lang said. â??Thereâ??s no river courtesy from other boaters, thereâ??s not enough law enforcement.â??

â??Thereâ??s way too much horsepower on the river. I would say alcohol and large horsepower are the two big problems on that river.â??

Several residents who live along the river said they find it frustrating that they arenâ??t able to alter the vegetation on the river in order to increase visibility. Several longtime residents also said dredging the riverbed would greatly reduce the risk of death, but that their ideas have fallen on deaf ears.

Without physically changing the river, however, safety remains the responsibility of boaters. Sgt. Paul Reinsch of Missouri State Highway Patrol said another tragedy can be avoided.

â??Do just like you do when you get into a vehicle,â?? Reinsch said. â??You have to obey all the rules and be as careful as you possibly can.â??Res

Reinsch said boating sober is a requirement of traveling on Missouriâ??s waterways. Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is a serious offense. Reinsch also said having a designated captain is a good idea if boaters do intend on drinking while on the water, that all passengers should wear life jackets and reduce speeds when necessary.

In the meantime, the town of Freeburg and surrounding communities continue to mourn the loss of two of their close friends.

â??Itâ??s kind of sad for a young guy like Larryâ?¦ Corrieâ?¦ for them to go,â?? Boehm said. â??I guess itâ??s when God wants them to go, he wants them to go. You just have to work through it.â??