Glen Ellyn father, sons rescue capsized fishermen from cold water near Bartlett

  • Nate Weathers of Glen Ellyn, left, along with his sons Hollis, 7, and Charles, 9, came to the rescue of a pair of capsized canoeists struggling in cold water on Deep Quarry Lake near Bartlett on March 22.

    Nate Weathers of Glen Ellyn, left, along with his sons Hollis, 7, and Charles, 9, came to the rescue of a pair of capsized canoeists struggling in cold water on Deep Quarry Lake near Bartlett on March 22. courtesy of Dawn Weathers

Updated 4/10/2021 5:29 PM

The quick-thinking and thoughtful actions of a Glen Ellyn man and his two young sons are being credited for saving the lives of a pair of middle-aged men who capsized their canoe in cold water while fishing near Bartlett on March 22.

Nate Weathers, 45, said the only reason he was out on Deep Quarry Lake on a Monday afternoon with 9-year-old Charles and 7-year-old Hollis was to provide them an outdoors lesson during their pandemic-inspired home schooling.


"We were mapping the lake, getting a picture of what it looks like under the water," Nate said.

Citing the so-called "butterfly effect," Nate pointed out that without the pandemic, his sons would have been in a normal classroom that afternoon and help would not have been as close at hand for the two men he and the boys rescued.

The family were in a boat on the south shore of the lake. But it was Charles, sitting at the front, who noticed something had changed about the only other boat on the lake -- a distant 400 to 500 yards away and about 40 to 50 yards from the north shore.

"Charles said, 'Those guys look like they're in the water,'" Nate said.

Charles said he first saw the canoe while the two men were fishing in it, but could tell the difference when they were outside it and clinging to it.

Hollis also gave credit to his brother's sharp eyes.

"Charlie actually saw the canoe first," he said. "We were just playing on the other side of the lake."

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Nate started the boat's trolley engine to begin the minutes-long journey to the overturned canoe.

Though it was a beautiful day with an air temperature in the upper 60s, the water temperature was probably no more than 45 degrees, he said.

As the family approached the men in the water, they could see people on the opposite shore had noticed the issues and were calling 911. But no one else was in a position to directly aid the men, though one young man who was obviously a strong swimmer had tried to reach them before realizing he couldn't in the cold water, Nate said.

Knowing the potential danger of boats and panicked swimmers, Nate stopped a short distance from the men in the water to establish what was going to happen next.

"Because I had my two boys with me, I talked to (the men) to determine they were lucid," he said. "I told them, 'You can't get into the boat.'"


Nate instructed the men to hold onto the side of the boat as he drove it to shore. Though the conversation he maintained with them was to keep them calm, he quietly had an oar nearby to shake off any action that would inadvertently tip his own boat.

"They just hung onboard," Nate said. "One guy asked, 'Are we even moving?' I think he expected it to be quick. The other explained what happened and how they'd tipped the canoe after getting a bite while fishing."

Paramedics from the Bartlett Fire Protection District responded to the scene within 4 minutes of receiving the call, Fire Chief William Gabrenya said. Their ambulance looked after one of the men while an assisting ambulance from Hanover Park looked after the other.

The man Bartlett Fire treated was 57 years old and from West Chicago, while the other man was within the same general age range, Gabrenya said. They had been in the water about 10 minutes and suffered mild hypothermia, but warmed up sufficiently at the scene to officially decline any further treatment or transport to a hospital.

They were, however, ultimately cited for failure to wear personal flotation devices, Gabrenya said.

He praised the way Nate had handled his assistance of the men and said it undoubtedly had saved their lives. Divers from Streamwood and South Elgin had been called, but were able to turn back when the men were safely brought to shore.

"I think he handled it very appropriately," Gabrenya said. "He was very concerned about his kids and his boat and didn't want to put them at risk."

The family has been invited to attend the next trustees meeting of the Bartlett Fire Protection District on April 21, for the presentation of a Citizen's Life Saving Award to Nate Weathers.

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