High waters, strong currents cause boat to tip over on Sheyenne River, sending fisherman through culvert

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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A couple fishermen sailed into a scary situation in West Fargo Tuesday—when their boat tipped over, sending at least one through the narrow culvert in the Sheyenne River. Officials say the high waters and strong current caused the boat to turn on its side.

Eight-year-old Maya Moritz lives down the street from the culvert on 7th Avenue West, dividing the Sheyenne River in West Fargo.

"It was like, scary,” she said. “And I was glad they were okay and stuff.”

Moritz and her family headed to the river, along with a crowd of fellow neighbors when they heard a boat was stuck.

"I always think, did anybody get hurt or did anybody drown?" Betty Tengesdal, who lives just feet away from the river, said.

Tengesdal walked over after seeing the rescue crew. Neighbors say it happened between 4 and 6 p.m. on Tuesday. A boat tipped to its side and got stuck at the culvert—but at least one of the passengers went through.

"They had tried to go under the bridge to the other side,” Tengesdal said, “and the Sheyenne River is so high right now, and apparently they went sideways when they were trying to get through."

West Fargo Fire Department shift captain, Joey Porter, says the fishermen probably had gone through the culvert other times, but the waters changed enough so they couldn’t fit this time.

"One of the gentlemen,” Porter said, “he ended up going completely through the culvert, and he said he couldn't touch bottom, he was not wearing a life jacket."

According to Porter, it could have been a dangerous situation for the two fishermen.

"He was completely wet,” Porter said, “so I don't know the whole details if he's completely underwater, but I'm guessing he did for some point."

Porter says a strong current was one cause for the tip over.

"The river’s up about a foot,” he said, “so it is flowing a lot faster than it normally was."

Porter says he doesn’t know how fast the current was going, but neighbor, Tengesdal says she thinks she does.

"I think my husband said 25 miles an hour or something,” she said, “that's pretty fast."

That, along with high waters, caused the boat to tip to its side.

"A lot of rain in a shorter period of time,” Porter said, “so the water is up a little bit."

"This is the Sheyenne River,” Tengesdal said, “so it's part of the diversion...sometimes the water here is really low and sometimes it's really high, so you just kind of never know."

Young neighbor, Maya Moritz, says watching the rescue scene taught her a lesson.

"Now I know that, not to go on a boat in the river,” she said. “Like to go fishing on land and not on a boat."

Porter says it's okay to sail on the river—but to use common sense.

“And wear a life jacket,” he said, “because accidents are called accidents for a reason, and they happen at the spur of the moment."

Tengesdal adds once she knew the fishermen were okay, she enjoyed watching the rescue crew. She says they're very good at what they do.