News: Civilians lauded for saving elderly couple at Wolf Creek Dam
Story by Leon Roberts
JAMESTOWN, Ky. – Three civilians received certificates of appreciation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today at Kendall Recreation Area for their heroic efforts that saved the lives of an elderly couple when their boat capsized here Sept. 20.
Lt. Col. Anthony P. Mitchell, commander of the Nashville District, lauded Richard Smith, Randall Setters and Harold Stamper for coming to the aid of Walt and Jean Schumn when they were near exhaustion and in serious danger of being swept under the strong currents below Wolf Creek Dam.
With the dam in the background during the award presentation, Mitchell told the three heroes that their willingness to put themselves at risk to save the lives of people they did not even know was a very commendable and selfless act.
“They took quick action and saved the lives of this couple,” he said. “This particular rescue speaks volumes about the characters of these three men and I appreciate their willingness to do what others may not have done if put in the same situation. They are heroes.”
The Schumns were fishing in the tail waters when they began to motor toward the dam. As they approached the dam and sluice gates, the motor malfunctioned and quit. As the boat took on water it began to capsize.
The couple fought the water for about 10 minutes before Smith, Setters and Stamper arrived on scene. The Schumns were then taken via ambulance to Russell County Hospital where they made a full recovery.
The Schumns later said that they were just about to give up the fight when the three men arrived.
Mitchell said that people can make false assumptions about the water levels, the turbulence, and volume of water under the dam and allow themselves to get too close. So it’s important others learn from this rescue to stay a safe distance from the dam in order to avoid getting hurt or worse, the colonel said.
Following the rescue, Corps of Engineers Ranger Noel Smith and other staff members from the powerhouse and fish hatchery nearby retrieved the couple’s boat and secured it to the shore.
Smith said the situation below Wolf Creek Dam could have been much worse.
“If not for the rescuers, the couple would have most likely drowned. The turbulent water due to the sluicing and generation created a very hazardous ordeal for the Schumns,” Smith explained.
From a safety standpoint, Smith added that there are a couple lessons that can be taken away from this mishap.
“Boaters below dams should be on high alert at all times when fishing in these areas. Signs and warning horns should not be taken lightly. Secondly, life jackets are a must in these areas. If the Schumns were not wearing their life jackets, the opportunity to be rescued would never have presented itself,” Smith said.
Corps safety officials said this incident did have a fantastic ending, but stressed that all too often people are not so lucky when they get into trouble on the water.
Rod Kellow, chief of the Nashville District Safety Office, said there have been several fatalities on Corps lakes this year, so this near-fatal event should serve not only to recognize heroism, but also to highlight the importance of water safety.
Kellow further recommends that people who plan to recreate at Corps lakes, and near power plants and dams, watch the “Not By A Dam Site” video that is available at each Nashville District Lake web-site. These valuable reference sites are listed below.
Center Hill Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/CEN.htm
Cheatham Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/CHE.htm
Cordell Hull Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/COR.htm
Dale Hollow Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/DAL.htm
J. Percy Priest Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/JPP.htm
Lake Barkley: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/BAR.htm
Lake Cumberland: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/WOL.htm
Laurel Lake http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/LAU.htm
Martins Fork Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/MAR.htm
Old Hickory Lake: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/lakeinfo/OLD.htm