Kentucky Firefighter Hurt in River Rescue

April 1, 2013
A Bowling Green Fire Department firefighter became trapped in the water as he attempted to provide life jackets to teens stranded in the Barren River.

April 01--What began this morning as a fishing trip for two teens ended in an emergency rescue from the strong current and rocky terrain at Barren River on Old Louisville Road.

Zack Sowders and Gage Lee, both 16 and both of Bowling Green, went onto Barren River about 6:30 a.m., and the motor of their boat later died about 50 yards from some of the the rockiest conditions on the river.

The boys were rescued about 9:30 a.m. after a joint effort between the Bowling Green Fire Department and the Bowling Green-Warren County Rescue Department.

"I was at work, and he called me panicking," said Zack's father, Roy Sowders, who was on Old Louisville Road this morning watching as Bowling Green Fire Department personnel attempted to provide life jackets to the teens.

As the teens approached the rocky area about 7:30 a.m., the boat flipped, causing Gage to fall into the 42-degree water, Roy Sowders said.

"He called me while I was at work and told me that the motor was drifting," Roy Sowders said.

A BGFD firefighter became trapped in the water about 8:20 a.m. as he attempted to provide life jackets to the teens, who were standing in the boat, which they had managed to flip upright again.

The strong current caused the rescue worker to be pulled across the rocky terrain, BGFD spokeswoman Marlee Boenig said. The man, whose name was not released, suffered an ankle injury during the incident, Boenig said.

"He was stuck and when he broke loose, I guess the current pulled him," Boenig said.

BGPD had 19 personnel at Barren River, and 15 and 20 rescue workers with the Bowling Green-Warren County Rescue Department arrived about 8:15 a.m. to assist.

BGFD set up relay lines to secure the area surrounding the teens, Boenig said.

"We had our lines set up, but the rescue squad got them out," Boenig said.

Bowling Green-Warren County rescue workers were able to get the teens onto a rescue boat.

"It takes several people to pull this off," said Bowling Green-Warren County Rescue spokeswoman Deborah Williams. "It's hard to do."

Rescue squads were on the scene for about 90 minutes.

"Our crews are trained in swift-water rescue," Williams said. "Most of these guys were out all night and they were dispatched again this morning. These are all volunteers."

The Medical Center EMS and Bowling Green Police Department also assisted at the scene.

Copyright 2013 - Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.

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