Love to Live, Live to Love, No Regrets! c.o.v 2006
It appears clear to us that there are serious hazards near river dams. They are called
low-head dams, and if you Google it, you will find that they are nothing less than
killing machines. This is what claimed the life of our beloved son Charles. He was a
strong swimmer, an accomplished diver and had a great understanding of currents
and water dangers in general. While this danger existed and caused several other
lives to be lost in the last two years, no warnings by the City of Lexington, VA, were
posted and access to the "swimming area" was not closed off. In addition there were
no life lines present at the dam, buoys signifying danger ahead, or signs warning of
the danger(s). I understand from several boating groups that this was brought to the
attention of City Officials, but it was either not in their budget or the maintenance was
too costly. As I pour over websites about these dangers, it appears that there isn't a
National Organization which would serve the public to make notice of these unsafe
conditions around our country through either public awareness groups, print and
television ads. It is our intention to create such an organization and start to inform the
public of these issues. If we can save one life, then we have done our job as
responsible parents and citizens. If you have any interest in belonging to a group like
this and helping us further this action, please send us an email and we will add you to
our mailing list.
Click here to send an email to me
Memorial at Jordan's Point Park for
Charles Volpe - Notice the calm lake
like water on the river - this water was
running at approximately 12 knots the
day of the accident! We need the City
to remove the hazard now, before
another person gets hurt or killed!
Four deaths in eighteen months in the
dam area and we think that's enough!
Update at bottom of paragraph - Well - here is the new dam sign
There is one facing the river, so if you are boating you get to see it
just before you go over the dam, (there are no dam warning signs up
river, and no protection if you get to close) and there is one sign
facing the approach to the swimming area - so if you plan to swim -
you still aren't warned that you could get swept over the dam and
drown if the water is up...the current is deceptive and the dam will kill
you if you go over. Click the link above to see why!
Update: The City
has complied with the new State Regs and installed buoys, signs
upstream, signs downstream, erected a cable across the river
with orange floats on it and a sign where the swimmers enter the
river in the park. This certainly helps.
On Little Torch Key at Parmer's Resort
on the way to Seacamp 03'
Last photo I took of Charlie 4/23/06 at 10:20
Don't forget the 5 year old boy, Kolton Karnes, who died at the dam on the Dan
River (just torn down) -
Brantley Dam Removal Story
Rocky Mount, VA - like Lexington, VA, this County has refused to deal with the
dangerous dam there, which in 2009 claimed the lives of Chris Odum and Nicole
Underwood who drowned at the dam in the Blackwater River.
Chris Odom and
Nicole Underwood Article
Here is a current article (letter to the editor by the mom of Nicole Underwood) about
what is going on in Rocky Mount -
Linda Underwood's Letter

Just after Charles' accident on May 29, 2006 another multiple drowning near Chicago
as reported in the Chicago Tribune...I must tell you that this story has been repeated
many times over all around the world as these useless dams are keep in the rivers.
They provide no purpose and are environmentally the worst thing that can be placed in
a river.

Perilous spot on Fox River claims 3 more lives

Yorkville dam is at top of state's repair-project list

By Antonio Olivo and Jamie Francisco
Tribune staff reporters

May 29, 2006

As the summer kayaking season kicked off its first weekend, three men drowned near the Glen D. Palmer
Dam on the Fox River in Yorkville, a notoriously dangerous spot that state officials have been preparing to fix
for two years.

The accident occurred about 1 p.m. Saturday, when two brothers tried to rescue Villa Park resident Craig
Fliege, 38, who had rowed his kayak too close to the edge of the dam.

Bruce Sperling, 32, a youth pastor at a church in Lombard, and Mark Sperling, 27, owner of a home
construction business, noticed Fliege caught in the whirlpool-like currents and ran into the river to try to save
him, officials said. The brothers also got sucked under in the currents, which have claimed the lives of at least
13 people since the dam was built in 1960.

As news of the accident spread Sunday, local activists who have long sought to tear down the dam criticized
the state Department of Natural Resources for taking too long to eliminate the safety hazard.

"It's something that has happened in the past, and if the dam is there, it'll happen again," said Tom Schrader,
vice president of the non-profit Friends of the Fox River. "Sometimes people think it's a thrill to ride these
rapids. They'll try to go over the dams."

Since 2004, the Department of Natural Resources has been preparing a multi million-dollar renovation of the
dam that would make it less hazardous, said Gary Clark, director of the agency's Office of Water Resources.

The planned improvements include a canoe chute that would allow boaters to go around the dam while
traveling downstream, Clark said.

"We were hoping to get it fixed before we had another accident there," Clark said. "This was selected as our
No. 1 project."

The dam's hazards are deceptive, with the river remaining shallow for several hundred yards before a sudden
drop close to the dam's edge that creates a fierce rolling undertow that can knock a person off his feet,
officials said. Signs posted along the dam's bank list the dates of drownings there since the late 1960s.

On Saturday, Fliege rowed past buoys warning of the dam's hazards, said Greg Freeman, who rents canoes
and kayaks near the dam and watched the rescue attempt unfold through binoculars.

"When he got 30 to 40 feet away from the dam, he put on his life jacket," Freeman said. "It looked to me like
he was talking on a cell phone right before he went over."

Freeman said he put down his binoculars to call 911. When he picked up the binoculars again, he saw the
Sperling brothers-who had been preparing to rent a canoe from him--sprinting toward the water.

"It's terrible the way it happened. They just didn't realize the power of the water," he said. "If you get into that
boil, you're dead. There's no second chances."

Bruce Sperling Sr., father of the two brothers, said he has often worried about the dam's safety while visiting
his son Mark, who lived across Mill Street from the structure. The two brothers had lately been canoing a lot
together as a way to get past the death last year of their mother, he said.

"They were just trying to spend an afternoon together to relax," the elder Sperling said, his voice growing
hoarse during a break in funeral arrangements for his two sons. He added that he was not surprised to learn
that his sons tried to rescue Fliege.

"Both of them lived their lives like that, doing whatever they could do to help people," he said.

That commitment was deeply felt at Lombard Bible Church, where Bruce Sperling had been a youth pastor the
last four years.

On Sunday, church members spent hours sharing memories of how the energetic young pastor changed their
lives and how he had often rescued many from their own roiling waters.

"He was Christ-like," said Lisa McKay, whose son Mike turned to Bruce Sperling when she and her husband
were having marital problems. He wound up counseling the entire family.

On Saturday, hours before he died, Bruce Sperling and other church members helped renovate a Lombard
senior citizen's home as part of a weekend message about the parable of the good Samaritan, McKay said.

"That's what he was, the good Samaritan of Lombard," she said. "He was always going out of his way to help

Several among a group of about 40 students who were part of Bruce Sperling's youth ministry wept openly
over the loss of a man many considered their best friend. Bruce Sperling, a math wizard with a passion for
practical jokes and Smurf figures, always listened when many adults didn't, they said.

Steve Chavez, 19, said Bruce Sperling helped him overcome difficult times.

"He was one of the first people I turned to," Chavez said. "When I met him, I had to be the shyest kid here. He
really opened me up."

Nathan Greene, 17, vowed to model himself after Bruce Sperling, whom he considered a mentor.

"He always talked to me as if I were a leader and said he couldn't wait to see what I was going to become in
the future," Greene said, sobbing. "When I heard how he died, I thought, `That's exactly what Bruce would do.'
He would always tackle everything head-on."


Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune
River Safety
At Seatrek,BVI Summer 05'
I will promise you that the dam will be altered in a way that it no longer proves to be a killer - not another person will
die there, if I can help it....I will pull out all of my resources and fight until it's fixed. We are making headway and Bill
Tanger of Friends of the River of Virginia and American Rivers are involved in the removal of this dams. Funds are
the issue, but there are ways of altering the dams to make them safer. Safe water activities in a safe environment is
the key here! It has been done in many towns across America.
Thanks to retired Police Chief Crowder.... you are the best the City had to offer and my family appreciates the
dignity you allowed us during the search and recovery of Charles.
Click here for more information on Low-Head Dams (Low-head dams: A not-so clear and present danger, by Virgil Chambers)
Charles Oliver Volpe
10/18/89 - 04/23/06