Owner: Mad River canoe business requires everyone to wear life jackets

The owner of the canoeing company a family was on a trip with when 1-year-old baby died after falling into the Mad River said they don’t send anyone under the age of 12 into the water without a life jacket.

Under Ohio law, all children under the age of 10 are required to wear a life jacket on a water, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“We will not let anyone go without the life jacket on a child,” Anthony Brown, co-owner of Birch Bark Livery in Champaign County said.

BUSINESS NEWS: First medical marijuana dispensary opens its doors in Springfield

Brown said his staff told the family to put their life jackets on before setting out on the Mad River on Tuesday.

“Apparently they either didn’t understand well or were reluctant to put on their life vests,” Brown said. “They had to be told a couple of times.”

When the family left for the trip, Brown’s staff said the family was equipped with the appropriate life jackets. But what happened after that — is still unclear, and under investigation by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.

Jamie Ye, Miya’s uncle, said Wednesday an employee at Birch Bark told him and his family to look for the the signage and concrete pillars on state Route 55 for the river’s exit, but he did not see them.

After the family missed their exit on the Mad River at state Route 55, their canoes became stuck on an underwater tree and capsized, causing 1-year-old Miya Ye to died.

According to the incident report, four adult life jackets and three canoes were found on the scene. There was no mention in the report of a child’s size life jacket.

Coast Guard certified life jackets come in varying sizes- child, youth, or extra large.

Brown said they don’t have a set age requirement to get onto the river, their rule is, “if you can walk on your own, you can boat.”

RELATED: 'When it's a kid, it takes a toll:' Champaign County Sheriff on Mad River fatality

When asked if Brown and his staff are permanently staged at state Route 55 in order to warn people about the end of the route, he said they try to, but it depends on timing.

However, there is a sign hanging from the state Route 55 bridge that reads, “Birch Bark Canoe Livery state Route 55 take out. All trips end here.”

Brown said after Miya’s death he is working to get more staff down at the end of the route more consistently.

“We actually closed down yesterday just to try and take a pause and figure out what we can do to prevent it, whether they are with us or not,” Brown said.

Brown said he never wants this to happen to another person on the Mad River, whether they are taking a trip with Birch Bark or not.

There were 18 fatalities on Ohio waterways last year, the second highest in the last four years, according to ODNR.

The sheriff’s office and county coroner’s office are continuing their investigation into this incident.

About the Author