On Friday, September 23, at 11:24 PM the Robert Fulton Fire Company along with boats from the Rawlinsville Volunteer Fire Company (Boat 5-8), Water Witch Fire Company (Cecil County Boat 7), Darlington Volunteer Fire Company (Harford County Boat 954), Harford County Swift Water Team, Wakefield Ambulance Assoc, and SVEMS unit 7-7-9 were alerted for a water rescue in the area of Goat Hill Road in Fulton Township.
Deputy 5-13 (R. Sample) responded and was advised by Lancaster County-Wide Communications that they had received a call from a local resident reporting that they can hear a male yelling for help. Upon further investigation by the local residents, it was determined that they could here a male voice pleading for help more than a ¼ mile away from their home in a swollen creek bed. Due to the dark and foggy evening, the caller was unable to see the person seeking help but was able to give the 911 center a very good location as to where they had heard the voice.
Deputy 5-13 arrived on location along with Ambulance 5-13-1 in the area of the 300 block of Goat Hill Road, commonly referred to as Holloway’s Creek, and assumed the command. At that time Deputy 5-13 confirmed that he could here a single male, approximately 1000 yards off the roadway, in the pitch black darkness, yelling for help.
As units started arriving on location, Boat 5-13 (Captain Schwerin, Lt. Appel, and FF Sylvan King) assembled its crew, gathered all necessary rescue gear and hand launched from the concrete bridge on Goat Hill Road. At that time it was unknown just how far the boat would be able to get down the creek due to water depth and or debris so additional crews were sent in on foot to try and locate the victim. Lt. Stoltzfus and FF Ryan Nolt drove around the block to the south side of the creek and made their way through a wooded area while some of the Harford and Cecil County units walked down a steep hill and through a large field before finally arriving in the area of the screams for help.
With rescue teams converging from three sides, and the man continuing to yell for help, he was soon found clinging for life from a small tree branch. After several attempts at reaching the man with water rescue throw bags, he was finally able to reach one of the tosses and told to release himself from the tree he was clinging to. Just as he let go from the safety of the tree, Boat 5-13 swung into position and was able to grab the now floating man and pull him into the boat.
With the cold and soaked man now onboard Boat 5-13, it was now time to decide the best method of getting him to shore and into the care of the EMS crews. While the boat crew knew Medic 7-7-9 was staging on Robert Fulton Highway where the creek crosses under the highway, they also knew that due to the very rapid currents and unknown water conditions, getting close to the bridge could be extremely dangerous. It was then decided that Lt. Appel would navigate towards the largest area of open land and “beach” the boat on the solid shore. At this time the patient was walked up to the hard road and placed into the care of Medic 7-7-9 where he was evaluated and later released.
Although the cold and wet man lost his 2002 Volkswagen Jetta in the swollen flood waters, he is very lucky to be alive thanks to the keen hearing of the individual from nearly a quarter of a mile away, and the brave men and women who were willing to jump into the dark and raging waters to save him.
A very special thank you goes out to the crews from Rawlinsville and Water Witch, who set up and manned the back up rescue systems on the down stream bridge. If one of the rescuers would have fallen into the water, it was very reassuring to know that this crew would have saved them from being swept down stream into the darkness.
Boat and Squad 5-8 on the down stream bridge with the backup safety/rescue system.
All units were clear of the scene at 12:50 AM.