Water rescue: Mennonite crew pulls family of 5 from raging Kings River

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A family of five was rescued from the rain-swollen Kings River on Sunday afternoon, more than an hour after their boat capsized in the raging waters.

According to Ted Hos-tetler, a team leader with the Mennonite Disaster Services Search and Rescue team, the rescue was complicated by a number of factors, not least of which was uncertainty about the location of the incident.

“We’re just in the week after much, much rain,” Hostetler said, “and there was a lot of water. We got toned about 5:40 p.m. by Carroll County Dispatch for a couple people in the water. That’s all they said. They said that they were stranded on the Kings River an hour from Stoney Point. They couldn’t say if it was before or after Stoney Point.”

With that in mind, Hostetler said rescue crews put in at Romp Hole and began making their way toward Stoney Point and the bridge over Arkansas 143.

“We put two boats in at Romp Hole not knowing where these folks would be,” Hostetler said. “We come to Stoney Point and still hadn’t seen anything. We got more information from dispatch saying they’re in neck-deep water.”

Rescue crews kept going past Stoney Point and eventually came upon two adults and three children in the middle of the river, clinging to a log.

“On a log that was sticking out at an angle out of the water,” Hostetler said. “We were able to put the boat right up to them and get them in the boat.”

After rescuing the stranded boaters and returning them to their vehicle, Hostetler said the family spotted their boat.

“It was a little bitty johnboat,” Hostetler said. “A little bitty thing — in flood stage going over rapids.”

Hostetler said the victims told rescuers that’s how they ended up in the water.

“They dumped going over the rapids and somehow gathered at this tree and they were hanging on for over an hour until we got there. It was almost 10 miles out from Romp Hole,” Hostetler said. “It’s a miracle we didn’t lose someone.”

Hostetler said by the time rescuers returned the family to their vehicle, the shock had worn off a bit.

“I was so happy that the kids started smiling by the time we got back,” Hostetler said. “They were cold, obviously, but not injured, refused treatment.”

Hostetler said that his crews had responded to a number of water rescues in recent weeks and stressed that everyone should wear a life preserver and think about safety before venturing out on the water.

“It was one of those rescues that we thought we were just going to pick someone up that was stranded on the bank,” Hostetler said. “Every situation is an emergency until you really know what you have. This just kind of reinforced that for us because I mean, the information you get is not really that good sometimes.”

In this case, he said the spotty information was because the victims were only able to make one phone call to another relative, who then called 911.

“Obviously, they weren’t in a position to make phone calls,” Hostetler said. “If they hadn’t been able to make that call, we’d have been searching into the night.”

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