911 caller: Baby who drowned in Mad River not wearing life vest

A baby girl who drowned during a Tuesday afternoon canoe trip on the Mad River was not wearing a life vest, according to a 911 caller who spoke to dispatchers through a Mandarin Chinese interpreter.

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The woman who called 911 said she did not know the name of the baby’s mother, and that the group of canoers did not see the child again after she went underwater.

Their two canoes and one kayak capsized in dangerous water after they passed the end point for Birch Bark canoe trips at state Route 55.

The child recovered from the river was identified as 1-year-old Miya Le of Bellfontaine, who was pronounced deceased at Mercy Hospital in Urbana, according to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.


It is still unclear whether the family, including the baby that drowned in the Mad River on Tuesday afternoon, had on their life jackets when their boats capsized.

The family was part of a canoe trip from Birch Bark Canoe Livery when they passed the end point at state Route 55, where there is a permanent sign signifying it is the end point for Birch Bark canoe trips.

The group’s two canoes and one kayak capsized, and 1-year-old Miya Ye of Bellfontaine drowned, authorities said this week.

Birch Bark has strict rules prohibiting anyone 12 or younger from entering the water without wearing a life jacket. However, the staff said  the group was not entirely compliant with the rules.

"Apparently they either didn't understand well or were reluctant to put on their life vests," Birch Bark co-owner Tony Brown told News Center 7's Jenna Lawson on Thursday. "They had to be told a couple times."

Brown’s staff said the group was equipped with life vests when they left for the trip, but it is not clear what happened after that.

Four adult life jackets were included in the initial incident report, but no child life jacket has been found.

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Brown has turned his attention to preventing any similar incidents from occurring in the future.

“We actually closed down [Wednesday] just to try and take a pause and figure out what we can do to prevent it,” Brown said.

Brown said they try to have a worker stationed at the end of the trip in addition to the sign, but it depends on timing.

After Tuesday’s deadly incident, Brown said he is working to have staff stationed at the end more consistently.

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