Genoa firefighter who fell out of kayak Saturday on the Loup River is still missing

Genoa firefighter who fell out of kayak Saturday on the Loup River is still missing
Brett Swantek

GENOA, Neb. — Brett Swantek, a Genoa firefighter who has been missing since Saturday, had not been found as of early Wednesday afternoon.

A note on the Genoa Volunteer Fire Department’s Facebook page early Tuesday evening noted that the fire and rescue effort was pulled back because of the Loup River getting close to flood stage. It’s “unsafe to continue searching till water levels drop,” the post said.

At 5:50 p.m. Saturday, the Nance County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call reporting that someone had fallen out of a kayak while trying to go over the Loup Public Power diversion dam on the Loup River.

Several witnesses on the bank of the river tried to reach the victim but, because of the strong currents in the area, were unable to do so. The Fullerton Volunteer Fire Department, Fullerton Volunteer Rescue Squad, Genoa Volunteer Fire Department, Genoa Volunteer Rescue Squad and Nance County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call.

Witnesses on the scene identified the victim as Swantek, 29.

“First responders and other volunteers from the area immediately began searching the waters at the dam and downstream,” said a press release from Nance County Sheriff Ben Bakewell.

“The Nebraska State Patrol Air Wing assisted in searching the area. The Platte County Dive Team was called in to assist in the search as well.”

Because of worsening conditions on the river and nightfall, the search was postponed until 5 a.m. Sunday.

“Nance County first responders, Nebraska Game and Parks, Nebraska State Patrol, the Merrick County Sheriff’s Office and several community volunteers including a private helicopter continued the search for Swantek throughout Sunday without success,” the press release said. The search was again postponed on Sunday evening because of dangerous weather conditions.

The search continued on Memorial Day with help from several other volunteers and first responders, including the Waterloo Fire Department, which provided a specialized boat equipped with sonar, and the Norfolk Fire Department, which deployed drones capable of searching below the surface.

On Monday evening, Swantek’s family and the Genoa Volunteer Fire Department posted on Facebook asking for volunteers to help line the banks of the Loup River to continue looking for signs of Swantek on Tuesday. A human remains detection dog was brought in and searched both banks of the river.

Because of extremely fast currents and dangerous conditions on the river, rescuers were not able to use watercraft to assist in the search on Tuesday.