Jackson County Times

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Trip Could Have Been a Deadly Experience

Give Thanks to God and Those Who Responded By Sid Riley
What began as a happy little afternoon float down our peaceful Spring Creek on Saturday afternoon….was not the way things worked out. Over thirty tubers ended up trapped on the swollen river after nightfall. It ended up being a harrowing, potentially deadly experience.
Thanks to excellent reaction by local citizens Johnny Barfield, Ricky McAlpin of Bear Paw, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, the Jackson County Fire and Rescue Department, and officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, this story had a happy ending. The problems began to develop for the tubers when they approached the area where Spring Creek empties into the larger Chipola River. Since the river was just below flood stage, the river was backing up into Spring Creek, making it impossible to float downstream out of the Creek into the River. If darkness had not fallen, the tubers could probably have worked themselves out into the river current, but darkness fell before they could accomplish that feat, leaving them stranded on a flooded river in the darkness.
To make matters worse, several tubes became deflated, and others were entangled in the debris of the river and flooded shorelines. With such a large crowd caught in this potentially deadly environment, the stage was set for disaster.
Johnny Barfield heard the tubers yelling for help at around 6:15. He headed their way in his boat and soon began to pick up people stranded in the water. They told him of many others further up the river. He used his cell phone to contact authorities and began to shuttle back and forth from Magnolia Landing and up river to bring the stranded to safety. Soon the Sheriff’s Department and the Fish and Wildlife Officers also had search boats on the scene, and all of the stranded were rescued from the dark, threatening swamp. They were a wet, thankful, mosquito bitten, group who went home wiser on the ways of the river, with a story to tell their grandchildren.

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