Kids saved after cleanup

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Volunteers like these rescued seven children who were stranded on a small island in the Duck River.

The annual cleanup of Marshall County's stretch of the Duck River turned into a rescue operation Saturday afternoon.

Just as the boat crews of volunteer firemen were leaving Henry Horton State Park, a man flagged them down and asked them to help seven children who were stranded on a small island in the river, according to Emergency Management Agency director Bob Hopkins.

Volunteer firemen Jerry Reynolds and Matthew Cummings of Farmington-Rich Creek VFD put their boat back in the river and made two trips to bring all the children to safety.

The six girls and a little boy had been playing near the boat ramp, but the current carried them and their inflatable downstream and they wound up on an island near the far bank of the river, about 300 yards from the ramp.

"They had no boat," Hopkins said, "They couldn't swim well enough to get back. It was getting close to the area where that boy drowned. It scared me to death."

Four girls between 8 and 10 years old were brought back on the first trip, and two had cuts on their knees, from scraping on the river gravel, so Hopkins called the ambulance service to come check then out.

The boat made a second trip for the other three.

"It was a happy outcome to a dangerous situation," Hopkins said. "It was good people doing a good thing -- being at the right place at the right time."

He explained that usually when the clean up is done near the end of June, the river is at "summer pool," in other words, pretty shallow and not flowing very fast. Saturday, however, with the rain we've had in the last two weeks, Hopkins said, the river was two feet higher than the summer-pool stage, and running fast.

"The water was real fast," Hopkins said. "That's what dragged them down river."

As for the clean up, he said, it "went well." Four boats put in below Milltown and went to the county line, and three put in at the Park and went "to the dam and back."

The Upper Duck River Agency organizes the cleanup every year. It's part of the group's responsibility under its charter.