Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 12, 2014

Two victims rescued from Hiwassee River during rescue training

Two from Cumberland County aid in effort

CROSSVILLE — Instructors and students taking part in a Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads training event near the community of Reliance in Polk County, Tennessee put their knowledge and skills to use by rendering potentially life-saving aid to a pair of victims trapped in a perilous situation.

While taking part in the intensive Swiftwater Rescue Level II training course on May 31, personnel from the Cumberland County Rescue Squad and Millington Fire Department along with TARS lead instructor Ben Waller noticed a brightly colored object that appeared to be stuck in a rugged section of the Hiwassee River’s path.

The crews moved in closer to investigate the object, quickly finding that the object they first saw was an inflatable float. At the same time they noticed the two people that had been using the float were now trapped between the unrelenting force of the rushing water and a large log that had fallen across the water’s surface.

Under Waller’s guidance and leadership, Millington firefighters Jordan Kinney and Craig Rose worked together with Cumberland County squadsmen Cade Bryant and Joshua Pierson to reach the endangered pair. The five rescuers made access to the victims, freed the two and their float from the entanglement, and ushered them out of the dangerous area.

“The victims were cold, panicky, and rapidly beginning to lose the ability to keep themselves from being pushed beneath the log by the current,” noted Waller, a respected veteran in the field of water rescue. “They were in a part of the river where no one normally goes, and were unfamiliar with the river; they were unprepared for the cold water,” the instructor further explained.

The thankful duo had struggled for some time to escape their predicament but to no avail, leaving them exhausted when they were located by Waller and his students.

Both victims had wisely worn appropriate personal flotation devices, but in the fast moving flows of waters such as the Hiwassee, the force generated by the water is often strong enough to overcome even these essential safety devices.

The Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads has long used the Hiwassee River for offering advanced training in swiftwater and flood rescue, as the waterway presents many of the same challenges found in water rescue situations throughout the state of Tennessee.

This high risk training provides participants with the confidence and capability to provide assistance in the most difficult of situations, as highlighted by the performance of the students during this particular instance.

In Waller’s words, “A good foundation in rescue techniques, incident command procedures, and teamwork is essential in such dangerous environments.” The teacher and four of his students demonstrated just how effective those principles can be through their successful efforts to remove the imperiled from harm.

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