Public Safety

Body of missing Illinois 5-year-old found in Mississippi River

Family members were wearing life jackets when current pulled canoe into dam

(iStock)
(iStock)

The body of Maci Jade Chavez, 5, of Milan, was found Saturday morning in the Mississippi River.

The news was reported on Facebook in a post by her mother, Melissa Chavez-Huston, and confirmed by Sgt. Tony Petreikis of the Illinois Conservation Police and Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson.

Someone in the area found the body about 11 a.m. Saturday in Pool 16 of the Mississippi River, Petreikis said. That area is between Rock Island and Muscatine.

The DNR said it planned to deploy four boats Saturday, and not all of them were out yet, Petrikis said.

A search for Maci’s body had been ongoing since a boating accident that occurred Monday at Milan Dam.

Maci’s body was found in the Mississippi after going through Steel Dam in Milan on the Rock River.

Maci’s mother was in the canoe with her at the time the boat was swept into Steel Dam’s current.

Also along on what was supposed to be an afternoon of summer-vacation fun was Chavez-Huston’s son, Ian, and a neighbor friend of his. Chavez-Huston thought they had been saved when a rescue raft arrived; however, that raft capsized in the turbulent waters, with Maci on the raft as it went under.

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The girl, her mother, her brother and his friend were in a canoe, and the current pulled it into Milan dam, Illinois Conservation police said. All of the people were wearing life jackets, and the canoe’s other occupants were rescued.

Gustafson pronounced Maci dead at 11:20 a.m. Saturday. The death was ruled a drowning.

“We are grateful we had the opportunity to bring her back and, hopefully, find closure for her family,” Gustafson said in a statement.

Maci, who was going into first grade, would have turned 6 on July 23.

Assisting with the search were crews from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Moline Fire Department, and Christian Aid Ministries Search and Rescue.

Huston-Chavez declined answering any questions Saturday and simply asked for prayers.

A GoFundMe fundraiser was established to help the family with funeral and memorial costs. It can be reached on the Facebook page of Jessica Van De Walker. Teachers and administrators at Washington Junior High School, where Melissa Chavez-Huston is a special-education teacher, also have raised money.

On July 1, during intermission of the Backwater Gamblers ski show, a memorial will be held where those in attendance can put flower petals into the Rock River to honor Maci. The Facebook Page for the event, titled “Flower Petals for Maci,” says to “bring any kind of flower petals to place in the water at intermission and watch them all float away peacefully in tribute.”

That Backwater Gamblers show will begin at 6:30 p.m. at 5000 44th St. in Rock Island.

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