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Boy, 13, Dies After Canoe Overturns in Floyds Fork

June 30, 2002

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Boy, 13, Dies After Canoe Overturns in Floyds Fork

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Swift Current Forced Firefighters to Wait for Rescue Team

by Megan Woolhouse, The Courier-Journal

A 13-year-old boy died yesterday after his overturned canoe became trapped under a tree in about 3 feet of water in Floyds Fork.

The victim, whose name had not been released last night, died at Kosair Children's Hospital.

Assistant Chief Dwayne Hutchens of the Fern Creek Fire Department said volunteer firefighters were unable to pull the boy out because of the creek's strong current, a result of heavy rain. He and others waited for rescue workers to arrive while the boy's father watched.

"The current was just too swift," Hutchens said. "There's nothing you can do."

Floyds Fork, in rural southeastern Jefferson County, is popular with people looking for a place to fish or canoe. Fern Creek fire officials said heavy rain Wednesday night in Shelby County caused the creek to swell yesterday.

Neighbors and firefighters familiar with the area said the churning brown water was 3 1/2 feet deep - about a foot deeper than usual.

Hutchens said the boy was canoeing with a teen-age friend about 3 p.m. when the canoe hit a limb that stretched over the water. The canoe capsized and pinned the boy underwater.

The friend got free and ran to a spot where the boy's father was clearing brush, Hutchens said. The boy also ran to a house to get help.

Hutchens, who said he was one of the first firefighters to arrive, found the father by the water shouting for help. He said that while they were waiting for rescue workers, the father jumped into the creek but the current swept him off his feet and into water up to his neck.

Hutchens said firefighters threw him a rope, but he got out of the water only when firefighters promised him that rescue workers were on the way.

Nick Knoth, 28, whose parents live nearby, said he saw ambulances and firetrucks and followed them a quarter of a mile along a path to the site.

Knoth said he stood with the others at the scene and waited 20 minutes for rescue workers.

"Time kept passing," Knoth said. "I kept thinking, 'This is pretty ridiculous.' "

Hutchens said firefighters had no choice but to wait for the Swift Water Rescue Team - a new unit made up of firefighters from several departments - to arrive.

The current was so strong, he said, that everyone thought that the special team would be better trained and equipped to handle the situation.

"There's nothing you can do," Hutchens said. "Your first idea is to jump in, but you risk creating another rescue."

Rescue workers tried to free the canoe from the tree, but they had to cut the limb off to get to the boy. He was still alive when he was taken to the hospital.

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