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The Plans – One Bad Plan & One Good Plan

February 16, 2013

RRThe two young teens decided to have some good old-fashioned fun. The plan was to enter the Smoky Hill River on a small inflatable raft, then float into the city. For a number of reasons this was “one bad plan.”

The months preceding this day had seen unprecedented rain fall. It rained so much the water control gates at Kanopolis Lake were opened full bore. The result was record amounts flowing down the Smoky Hill River. What was usually a lazy river was now a raging river.

Next reason this was a bad plan was the raft size. Their choice was the equivalent of riding a tricycle on Interstate 70 – clearly an undersized ride.

One last reason was the ambient temperature. It was cold enough the boys donned jackets – warm jackets. Unfortunately, they failed to add flotation jackets.

The ride down the river was uneventful until they hit the rapids. The rapids immediately flipped the toy-sized raft like a pancake – tossing the boys into the frigid, boiling rapids. Awaiting the boys a thousand feet ahead were scores of wedged cottonwood trees.

Boy One went to the left and was pulled under the tree wedge with the sucking power of a monstrous leech. Boy Two stayed mid-stream and was tossed up onto a tree pile like a rag doll. One boy dead and another almost dead – the results of “one bad plan.”

The rescue team arrived to find the boy perched upon the trees in the middle of the raging river – only recognizable as a human when he moved. Adding to the difficulty of the rescue was the sixty-foot straight walls on each side of the river, coupled with the deafening noise of the roaring water.

Rescuer George Elliott – the guy with the most technical rescue knowledge – was the one summoned to the Command Post. A detailed plan was developed and drawn on a tablet. Afterwards, the plan was driven to the other side of the river to show other rescue team members.

A special gun blasted a string line across the river to pull the rescue rope. A flotation jacket was attached to a rope and floated into the boy. He would grab the vest, don it, and then be pulled from the death chute. That was the plan.

Unfortunately, the roar of the river didn’t allow the sharing of the plan with the boy. After grabbing the jacket he simply disconnected it from the rope. The plan would need to be modified.

Putting a rescuer in the water was the last thing the team wanted, but it was the only other choice besides leaving the boy. With a short tag line in hand, the rescue team lowered Rescuer Chad Scoville into the water and up to the boy. Chad quickly hooked into the boy and then gave the signal to the rescuers to hoist.

Minutes later the boy was safe on land.

This has been the most complex rescue witnessed in my thirty-four year career. The entire team deserves credit for the rescue, but special recognition must go to two of the rescuers – Chad and George.

Not many people would have volunteered to be dropped into the Smoky Hill River that day – even to rescue a young boy. What Chad did was as heroic as heroic gets.

Then there is George. He is a rescue genius like no other. He drew up “one good plan”.

Actually, it was better than good – it was GREAT.

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