Accident Database

Report ID# 50390

  • Flush Drowning
  • Near Drowning
  • Inexperience

Accident Description

From new story:

A man says he is forever grateful after a stranger saved his life.

Charles Kelly was drowning at Manchester White Water Park. He was on an inner tube, without a life jacket, when it flipped. 

"I went down. I was like oh my gosh it’s over with…. I can swim, but the waves just kept knocking me down under the water," Kelly said. "It’s over with. That’s all I thought. I saw the light. I just thought it was over." 

Then Marty Colbert, of Cedar Rapids, stepped in to help. 

"Charles had gone over the first drop, and he was off his tube, and he looked like he was struggling," Colbert said. "I noticed he was going under and staying under. That’s when I grabbed by throw rope and made it down there." 

Colbert then threw the rope towards Charles. "He managed to catch it, and I ended up reeling him in. He was extremely exhausted," Colbert said. 

Kelly created a video, letting his new friend know just how thankful he was. Kelly says, "Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I’m so grateful because I have brothers and sisters and a mom and a dad. They’d be hurt if I wasn’t here today." 

Kelly says he’s not just thankful, but he’s also glad he learned important lessons about river safety. 

"The river is not a joke. It’s not a game. I thought it was. I learned my lesson times 10. Wear your life jacket. Make sure there is someone around who will help you, if you drown."

Both men ask that people please remember this: 

1. Know your skills and your limits.

2. Don’t forget to wear a helmet, a life jacket, and river appropriate clothing. 

3. Don’t go out on the water alone. Go with friends; do not go alone. Even better, go with people who are experienced in river safety. 

A woman named Hannah Ray J was also there to help with the rescue. She posted this to Facebook: 

PSA for Iowa peeps: Marty and I pulled this young man from the river at Manchester White Water Park just in time before he flush down. Cut to the chase, he is alive, breathing and living.

The Story: May 22nd 2018, Marty and I had a planned a whitewater meet up at the Manchester White Water Park for this evening. We had several friends meeting us there. We were pretty excited for the high water from the recent rains (heard 4" at dundee and around 2" in the Manchester area). The river was running at just under 1000cfs!

Marty and I pulled up to the whitewater park, seeing 2 young men with inner tubes at the top of the park heading to the river with no PFDs, no helmet, no shoes or other protective equipment. Not an unusual sight for Manchester, but they were the only ones on the river at this time (about 5:30pm)

We parked the vehicle, seeing that we were the first of our group to arrive. We put the tail gate down, was getting some gear organized when we saw the two men starting to float the tubes over the river left side of feature 1. We thought..ewww.. that’s not gonna be pleasant. At 1000cfs the river starts to flow over the rocks on either side of feature, making a bouncy, shallow, rocky slide down the feature.

We watched the first young man flip the tube backwards at the bottom of the rocks, saw his head pop up, then disappear, then pop up, then disappear again. By this time we had our throw ropes ready, starting to walk towards the man still struggling in the river. When he surfaced a third time but was still struggling to stay up, Marty sprinted to the river bank, I grabbed my PFD and met them at the river bank.

When Marty arrived at the river side within moments to where the man was struggling in the current, he threw a perfectly aimed rope to the man, who latched on to the rope as Marty pulled him to shore. Marty helped the young man out of the river and he collapsed, sitting on the river bank exhausted and coughing up some water. Breathing heavily, he profusely thanked us again and again for saving him. He knew he was close to drowning and was so grateful we were there at the right time. (the other young man, exited the river before following him).

Both young men are alive and breathing and learned a valuable lesson about proper safety equipment for river activities and to check and know the water levels. The river is still a wild environment in which humans do not have gills and demands the utmost respect.

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