Swollen rivers keep water rescue crews busy
Posted July 5, 2013
Pittsboro, N.C. — Water rescue crews were busy with distress calls Friday as people in kayaks, canoes and inner tubes hit area rivers for the holiday weekend.
Above-average rainfall and strong storms in recent weeks mean many rivers are swollen and filled with debris, authorities said.
No injuries have been reported, but authorities urged people to stay off the water this weekend.
"The rivers are really moving right now, and they're not safe," said Capt. Mike Davidson, program manager for specialty rescues with the Raleigh Fire Department. "We have a full river. That also means that the speed of the river and the volume of the water is greatly increased."
On the Haw River near the U.S. Highway 64 bridge, rescuers fought the current Friday afternoon to save a man whose kayak overturned, officials said. Sky 5 aerial video showed the man, who appeared to be OK, sitting on a rock in the rushing river as two rescue kayakers struggled to reach him.
A raft with three rescuers on board eventually pulled up beside him, and he jumped to safety.
It was the third water rescue in that area, in Chatham County near Pittsboro, in two days.
Early Friday morning, a state helicopter rescue team airlifted a kayaker from a small island in the river after he capsized his boat Thursday night.
Sam Gilliam, 22, of Raleigh, spent the night stranded on the island, about a half-mile south of U.S. 64.
On Thursday afternoon, a woman in an inner tube went over a dam on the river, dropping about 8 feet. She was able to get to an island of rocks while rescuers battled the quick current to get to her.
In Wake County, four people were rescued on the Neuse River Friday afternoon after their inner tube, which was being pulled by a kayak, got caught in some trees and flipped over. The person in the kayak made it to safety.
Davidson said the fast-moving, high rivers are dangerous for amateurs and experts alike.
"These rivers are different for us as well," he said. "So the challenge for us is making sure we stay safe as we deal with these conditions."