Three fishermen rescued from Meramec River near St. Louis

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) -- Three men were rescued from the Meramec River Sunday morning after their canoe flipped over in the swollen waters. The rescue took place near the Highway 21 bridge close to the St. Louis/ Jefferson County line.

Saline Valley Fire Protection District Chief Bob Dunn said the men were in the early to mid 20′s. They had been fishing. After the canoe overturned, they held onto it, afraid for their lives as the waters swept them down river.

Rescuers dropped a line from atop the Highway 21 bridge, to start pulling the men out one by one.

"They`re extremely lucky,"  Dunn said.

Lucky in many ways. First all of, one of their cellphones worked even after their canoe flipped.

'One of them gentleman on the boat was in contact with 911 on his cell phone and said that they were at the Meramec River Bridge and (Highway) 21,' Dunn said.

Saline Valley firefighters then raced to the bridge connecting Jefferson and St. Louis Counties.  It was actually a  two stage rescue. Stage 1 -- rescuers dropped a rope from the bridge as the men floated by below.  One of them was able to grab the rope.

"We were there with the rope.  We watched them go under the bridge.  One of them was able to grab hold of the rope that we threw to him. The other weren't able to grab it," Dunn explained.

The other two men were swept further downriver with their canoe, before eventually becoming  tangled in a clump of trees surrounded by the swollen river.

Rescuers pulled the men into a boat and ran a line from shore to the man clinging to that rope from the bridge, according to Dunn.

"A couple of firefighters swam through the water, put a life jacket on him, then brought him back. With the options they (the fishermen) had, as fast as the current was, the smartest thing they could do was hold onto their canoe and ride it down there river.  It`s high and it`s fast and there`s so much debris in it, especially to be in a canoe," Dunn explained.

None of the three men were wearing life jackets. They were taken to area hospital to be checked out, but appeared to be in good health.

The bridge was closed for about an hour Sunday morning during the rescue.

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