Firefighters from West Point and Columbus helped rescue a Hinds County man Monday afternoon from rain-swollen Big Black River along Old Highway 80 in Hinds County.
The 54-year-old man and a friend had been on the river patrolling the areas around flooded camphouses when it hit a limb, flipping the boat and throwing the two men into the river, which is part of the water system which has experienced near-record flooding during the weekend and into this week.
The friend was able to get to safety but the victim was only able to grab hold of a limb and cling to the tree until help could arrive.
Others who saw the accident were able to call rescue teams, but couldn’t get to the area.
“He was in a pretty dire situation, tough situation,” said Allen Flynt, a captain with the West Point Fire Department and a member of that department’s swift water rescue team, as well as Homeland Security’s Region 2 swift water crew.
“We went out after him with a two-person team from Biloxi. The Columbus crew stayed behind as a safety measure and back up,” Flynt added.
“We got to where he was but it was tough. You’d be in deep water and then shallow water. There are so many unknowns in a situation like that because you don’t know the river or the territory. I’m pretty sure we hit some things.
“There was a fence around this back yard where he was and all the gates to the fences at these houses were padlocked. We split up to go find a way through and Biloxi got to him first and were able to get him down while we made sure they all were safe,” Flynt continued.
“He was lucky some people in a john boat were able to keep an eye on him until we could get there. They did the right thing because they knew they didn’t have the ability to get in there where he was. He was pretty wet and cold and shaken when we got to him,” Flynt added.
The man, whose name wasn’t released, was treated and released.
The rescue happened Monday on the third day of response from the local rescue teams.
Flynt and fellow West Point firefighter Lantz Stewart, Columbus fire captains Marco Rodriguez, Wes Mims, Shanon Murphy, and Melvin Junkin, and Starkville firefighters Matt Schober and Justin Edwards went to the Pearl River area Saturday after being called up by Homeland Security to help with patrols and rescues during flooding there.
They all are part of the Region 2 rescue team. They were joined by crews from Tupelo, Biloxi and Desoto County, among other places.
West Point took its swift water rescue boat, which was a gift from Firehouse Subs several years ago, and Columbus took its large mobile communications center and two flat-bottom rescue boats.