FIRE RESCUE BOATS OVERWHELMED BY FLOODED RIVER
A motorist was reported adrift in Swannanoa River near Asheville, North Carolina , at 9 PM on Saturday, December 14, 1994. Firefighters spotted him floating downstream. They couldn’t be sure just where he would be when help arrived, so they launched rescuers upstream and downstream of the accident site. The downstream rescuers got into trouble after just two miles of upstream travel. Their hovercraft and jet boat choked on floating debris and floundered in the French Broad River, just below the confluence with the Swannanoa. The boats capsized, and four firefighters were thrown into the river.
One man was rescued at once; the others swam six, seven, and eight miles before being recovered. Ropes were thrown at the six-mile point, but only one of the exhausted men grabbed hold. Of the remaining men, one managed to get onto an old bridge pier where he was rescued by a fisherman piloting a jet boat; another managed to grab hold of a clump of tress where he was spotted and recovered by a searchlight-equipped helicopter. He was recovered only a short distance above Craggy Dam, an unsurvivable plunge!
Meanwhile, the upstream rescue team located the victim on the shore of the Swannanoa well above this near disaster.
SOURCE: Asheville Citizen-Times via Slim Ray
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Firefighters in other types of rescues depend on equipment, rather than skill. Unfortunately, a river can destroy even the most powerful watercraft, so knowledge and training are vital!