By Brandi Makuski
Emergency crews showed up in force Sunday morning after a caller reported a capsized boat in the Wisconsin River near the Verso mill at about 4:10 AM- but the call turned out to be a hoax.
Initial reports indicated three people had gone into the near-freezing water just north of the paper mill’s dam. Lt. Ron Heibler from the Stevens Point Fire Dept. said crews from the city, Plover and Hull responded with a full-scale search for the boaters.
“We found one guy and he was treated for hypothermia,” Heibler, adding the man had already emerged from the water by the time crews were on the scene.
After interviewing the man, he said firefighters discovered the was no boat involved, and only one person who went into the water. Heibler referred to it as a “false call”.
Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner said a 20-year-old man had been taken into custody for the hoax Sunday morning, noting the man was intoxicated and also allegedly caused some damage and vandalism to a building on Verso property.
“The original claims that a boat went over the dam were found false,” Zenner said, adding the man initially said there were “two other people” still in the water.
Multiple agencies were on the scene and had begun to fear the worst for what they thought were two missing victims. More emergency crews were also en route, Zenner said, when police determined the information was a hoax. He called the response “concerning” and “intense” up until that point.
“That all was found to be incorrect,” he said, add the man allegedly jumped into the water on his own.
The nature of the vandalism to Verso was not immediately released. Zenner said investigators were still gathering information, and what type of charges might be requested would be available on Monday.
“We’re still trying to gather the full story,” he said.
More as we have it.