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Tense moments as 3 stuck in raging waters

The Van Buren County Rescue Squad was dispatched Jan. 11 to address a Swift Water Rescue after a truck washed down Archey Creek with three people on top of the truck.

“We were able to mobilize the Van Buren County Swift Water team,” said Brian Tatum, head of the Rescue Squad. “The travel to the

incident was very treacherous due to the icy conditions. The team was able to make it part of the way down Hargis Road and then it got to be too bad for the Rescue Unit and the Water Rescue trailer, so we set up a staging area about halfway down Hargis Road.”

There they met the Dennard Fire Department. The equipment and supplies were placed into the commander’s unit and the team took three 4-wheel drive vehicles and continued to the scene.

Upon arrival at the Castleberry Creek crossing the water was rolling very high over the low water bridge, Tatum said. After a lengthy discussion on safety issues the rescuers were able to cross Castleberry Creek and head toward the incident site.

The rescue units could see the truck in the water as well as two females and one male on top of the truck with no life vests on. The victims were approximately 40 to 50 feet from the bank. After some discussion with the property owner and the Dennard Fire chief, it was decided there was not a way to get to the other side from a different direction.

Incident Command asked to have the Faulkner County Rescue Squad and the Game and Fish Swift Water Teams deploy to the location.

Three downstream spotters were placed in case the truck became dislodged or one of the victims fell into the raging water.

Rescue Command decided that it was too dangerous to put a rescue boat in the water due to the water being around 20 feet out of banks and into the woods.

Rescuers then came up with a plan to try and cross the river using a tripod stance while attached to a rope. Rescuers set up a pulley system and two rescuers entered the water.

The rescuers were able to make it approximately 25 feet into the water before getting washed downstream and recovered by other Rescue Squad members.

The Arkansas Game and Fish then arrived with their Swift Water Team. A new plan was put into action. There would be two rescuers tied off by rope approximately 20 feet from the bank in the water, which was beside the original channel. Rescuers then tossed a throw bag full of rope to the victims and they pulled life jackets and helmets to themselves. Rescuers then had them hook the rescue rope to the back of the Swift Water life vest and rescuers were able to pull the victims in one by one.

The victims were taken to the Castleberry Creek crossing where they were met by Southern Paramedics. The females were taken to Ozark Health Medical center and treated for mild hypothermia.

The Conway Special Operations Team showed arrived after one of the victims already was out of the water. The Rescue Squad, Arkansas Game and Fish, Van Buren County Office of Emergency Management and the Dennard Fire Department then began the demobilization. The rescue team, Dennard Fire Department and OEM were on scene for approximately 7 ½ hours.

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