2 men nearly sink while on homemade boat in Miss. River

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MILLINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - Two Mid-South men and their dogs nearly sank after trying to raft on the Mississippi River Monday morning.

Nicholas Mella and Kasey Stringer constructed a homemade pontoon boat and planned to ride it on a three-week trip to New Orleans. The two friends, along with their dogs Kela and Tiko, departed from Shelby Forest Sunday afternoon.

"This is the first time we've ever done anything like this," Mella said.

Around 6 a.m. Monday, eight miles into their trip, Mella and Stringer encountered heavy rain and strong currents. The water was so powerful, it nearly swallowed the men alive.

"It was really the weather that got us," Stringer said. "The wind was blowing at least 15 miles an hour."

Stringer said the rain was coming down from every direction, making it impossible for he and Mella to escape.

The Coast Guard responded to the incident and successfully rescued all four passengers.

"It was a good set of circumstances that we were able to get to them as soon as we could," Lt. Jason Erickson said.

The Coast Guard ended the voyage and said the homemade boat would not have survived the Mississippi River for long. It had a huge crack in the cross deck and the floor had begun to crack.

Legally, the vessel was not certified to be on the River. It has since been dismantled for spare parts and firewood.

The Coast Guard said both men were wearing life jackets and neither man was injured.

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