Accident Database

Report ID# 3740

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Other
  • Inexperience

Accident Description

Two Pulled From Swollen Creek In Stroudsburg, PA

By Andrew Scott

Pocono Record - June 12, 2013

Emergency crews spent almost an hour rescuing two young men whose kayak capsized late Tuesday afternoon in Pocono Creek behind Stroudsburg High School. Shirtless and wearing life vests, Dean Vliet Jr. and Brandon Whitmore, both 20 of Stroudsburg, got stranded on a downed tree across the creek at about 6:40 p.m. when their kayak hit the tree and capsized farther downstream. Recent rains had made the creek higher than normal, with a swift, dangerous current.

Bryan Chambers and John Rodriguez, both of Stroudsburg, were playing tennis on school grounds when they heard someone yelling for help. "It was coming from the direction of the creek, so we ran over and saw these two guys stuck on a tree out in the middle," Chambers said. "They were yelling for help and telling us to call 911." Police were not sure which was Vliet and which was Whitmore, but both were facing upstream. One was wearing glasses and perched higher on the tree, more out of the water, with scratches on his back. The other appeared to be pinned in a lower position against the tree, more submerged in the water.

Pocono Creek flows between the school on one bank and the Ford car dealership on the other. By the time Chambers and Rodriguez spotted the stranded pair, other people on the Ford dealership side had seen them and already called 911. "I grabbed my resuscitation mask and ran back down to the bank," said Rodriguez, a lifeguard at Camelbeach Resort in Tannersville. "The first thing they teach us lifeguards is to survey the scene," he said. "If it looks too dangerous to attempt a rescue on your own, don't try. Wait for others. I saw they were too far out in the middle, and the water looked deep and was moving pretty fast where they were. So, I basically waited on the bank and tried to talk to them to keep them calm until help arrived."

As more onlookers gathered on both banks, Stroudsburg Volunteer Fire Company, Northeast Volunteer Search And Rescue, Suburban Ambulance and Stroud Area Regional Police arrived. Vliet and Whitmore were stranded closer to the higher, steeper bank on the Ford dealership side, where the water was deeper and swifter.

Rescuers saw right away they would have to get the pair out on the other bank, where the water was shallower, said Stroudsburg Fire Chief Mike Seip. "The other thing we saw was that we couldn't use ropes to pull them out because there was a risk of the ropes getting snagged and tangled up," Search and Rescue Chief Bruce Barton said. Instead, some of the firefighters and search and rescue personnel went downstream of where the men were stranded, tied ropes to trees on both banks and stretched the ropes across the creek. Wearing dry and wet suits with swiftwater vests tethered to ropes, other rescuers then worked their way out to Vliet and Whitmore. "The one who was pinned lower against the tree was the one we had to get out first because he was more submerged for a long period of time in that cold water," Barton said. Rescuers got him free and let the current carry him downstream to where the other rescuers caught him with the ropes across the creek. They then did the same for the other.

Both shivering with their upper bodies wrapped in towels, Vliet and Whitmore were then brought out of the creek and escorted to an ambulance. Both were able to walk on their own and didn't appear injured, but were taken to Pocono Medical Center to get checked for mild hypothermia, police said.

Rescuer's Report from Bruce Barton Via the Yahoo SwiftH2O Page

On a happier note but a tough rescue from our stand point, we had a SWR of two young men in their 20s last night from swollen creek , got both out alive with only scrapes, I learned that no matter how hard you train to do these by the numbers, life never lets you get to do that. They were weekend kayakers with cheep PFD/s that were on but not fastened correctly and using some type of two seat open craft that dumped them out, never found that. Under staffed with WR trained manpower (5), FD with very limited WR training/experience but worked well together.

Fire Co had only one WR trained person that was in one of our classes years ago what was in the water when we got on scene, He did a good job keep his cool but they had him on the snag tree with a waist tether no release. I got him off that better to free swim we had down stream support and diagonal capture line, throw bags, rescue swimmer in type 5 on line. Had a ladder truck in reach but was blocked by power line, A tethered boat or V line swimmer would have been a great option but did not have the trained manpower or time to try that. Victim 1 was going down hill fast due to exposure we had multiple snags around him, we powered pulled him over the branch to center and Rescuer 1 floated him down stream between the two main branches and he was grabbed by a rescue swimmer. victim 2 was in much better shape and cool headed we reset and had him hold a line and float down to the rescue swimmer that grabbed him.water was not flood level just strong flow and deep When do you make the decision to take the some safety locks out and bypass many trained norms, waiting was not an option as the victim 2 says he is losing grip on Victim 1 at the water line , he was pined into the snag underwater and hand to come upstream and over the tree. To many snag hazards to use more lines we had a webbing sling under his arms to pull him up and over. (snags were underwater and 4-5 feet up in the air Two large trees)

Due to lack of man power I was in water, directing ops, passing lines and back up to Rescuer 1 , I was going to try and access victim 2 after 1 went down, as bad as I wanted to do that, it seemed to be a greater risk than it may have been worth, I made the choice to rely on the down stream resources and there training. Victim 2 was good with that. My rescue swimmer had just done dozens of go rescues at a Tougher Mudder obstacle event (standing water) the weekend before and never missed a beat all day. Just like in K9 training you have to just trust the dog at some point and let them do their jobs, in WR you have to let go of the instructor/chief over protective thing and can they do it mind set and trust the team members and make it happen. It worked, may not of looked text book but did no harm and got them out alive.

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