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Canoeists Rescued After Near Drowning In High Flowing River

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

National Park News

On March 15th, rangers received a report of stranded canoeists in the Alum Ford area within the park’s Kentucky District. A couple from Chicago had attempted to canoe from Alum Ford to Turkey Creek while the river was at flood stage, running at approximately 15,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). The water temperature was also dangerously cold at 45 degrees. Within a mile, they encountered huge rapids which flipped the canoe and nearly drowned both of them. The boat and all their gear were lost. They were able to crawl out of the river and walk back upstream, clinging to rocks and branches, until they got the attention of some people back at Alum Ford and a call was made to 911. Rangers Curtis Stone and Jimmy Barna responded and located the couple with the help of bystanders. With flood waters still rising, Stone was able to use the park’s jet boat to negotiate the treacherous whitewater to a point where he could reach the victims, who were now nearly hypothermic. Rangers and bystanders positioned themselves downstream along the river with throw bags and rescue gear as Stone ferried the man and woman back across the frigid water to safety. No further injuries occurred and the pair were transported from the scene and made a full recovery. Barna was incident commander.


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