Effingham man died on Kaskaskia River after saving woman in trouble, authorities say
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Effingham man died on Kaskaskia River after saving woman in trouble, authorities say

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The Effingham man whose body was recovered from the Kaskaskia River on Thursday died after helping save a woman on June 30, authorities report.

A woman who was riding an inner tube was in trouble near a logjam in the river, said Shelby County Dive Team Commander Austin Pritchard. Wallace O. Darkow Jr., 35, helped the woman escape the area and was drawn under the logjam.

Darkow was out kayaking with a group of friends, said Jennifer Clifton, the mother of two of Darkow's children.

"He died a hero. He died helping somebody," she said.

Darkow was on an annual trip with friends, said Clifton, adding he "loved being outside with his friends and family."

Clifton said the search was long and difficult and they found it impossible to sleep. They spent much of the time trying to reminisce.

It seemed impossible that he would be dead, she said.

"It's closure now that he was found for the kids and everyone else," Clifton said.

"Now he's up there watching over them," she said.

Darkow's family has come together after the death, she said.

"They have plenty of family. And that's what is helping us is his family."

The dive team had spotted his body in a logjam and were working in the area, said Pritchard. They were using heavy equipment in the search, but were aware that the body might move, so there were people looking farther downstream, he said.

One of those searchers located the body just past the bridge where Illinois Route 128 crosses the river as night was falling, Pritchard said. That region of the river has several large snags and numerous trees going right up to the riverbank.

Pritchard said they were able to keep up the long-term search because of the involvement of other agencies in the search. The actual discovery was made by Illinois Department of Conservation Police using an airboat about 8 p.m., according to an IDNR release.

IDNR officers were also assisting in the search by using sonar.

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