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High waters hamper search for Genoa firefighter who fell out of kayak this weekend
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High waters hamper search for Genoa firefighter who fell out of kayak this weekend


High waters on the Loup River have halted the search for a missing 29-year-old Genoa volunteer firefighter who fell out of his kayak Saturday.

Brett Swantek's fellow firefighters and more than 100 members of the community had been looking for him in hopes of bringing his family closure, Genoa Volunteer Fire Chief Shawn Strain said Wednesday. 

"He's a great guy," Strain said. "(He) just had a lot of friends." 

Just before 6 p.m. Saturday, a witness called 911 after seeing Swantek fall out of the kayak while trying to go over the Loup Public Power District diversion dam on the Loup River, Nance County Sheriff Ben Bakewell said in a news release.

Strong currents prevented people on the river banks from reaching him, and area fire departments and rescue squads, along with sheriff's deputies began looking for him around the dam and downstream, Bakewell said.

Platte County's dive team came to help search Saturday, but ultimately nightfall and worsening river conditions led officials to postpone the search until Sunday morning, the sheriff said. 

Searching continued Sunday and Monday, then officials asked for volunteers to help line the riverbanks to look for Swantek or any signs of him Tuesday morning. 

Local media reported more than 100 people helped assist, but later Tuesday, rescue officials pulled search crews off the river as it approached flood stage, Strain said. 

Water levels have begun dropping, so Strain said search crews hope to resume their efforts as long as rain holds off. 

Swantek worked as sales manager at Curry Bros. Motorsports in Columbus and was a volunteer firefighter for several years, Strain said.

His wife, Katie Swantek, is an EMT for the Genoa Rescue Squad, and the two have a young son, according to a Facebook post from the department. 

Strain said the search has been tough for the departments, which were busy in March responding to flood-related emergencies.

One of the department's firefighters lost his home to flooding. 

But Strain said just as their community pulled together then, it was pulling together for the Swantek family.

"It’s been a lot of firsts for everybody," Strain said.

"We've got a heck of a community."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.


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