SMITH, Ky. – A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District park ranger rescued a drowning teenager in Martins Fork Lake over the Labor Day weekend.
Aaron Ledford, 18, a non-swimmer from Louisville, Ky., attended a family reunion Sept. 1 and entered the water to recover a beach ball. He got into trouble when he released the swimming area’s boundary line as he pulled himself out hand-over-hand.
Park Ranger Brent Sewell, a trained life guard, took swift action when a woman waved him down and reported that a kid was drowning.
“I looked out and saw a head go under, dumped my cell phone, stripped off my shoes, and went in after him,” Sewell said.
Sewell said he thought he was going after a child but instead found a young adult of equal size in the last stages of exhaustion. The victim was located about five feet from the line in 12 feet of water and about 40 meters from shore. Fortunately, according to Sewell, there was no struggle as the individual was conscious but not responsive and appeared to be in shock.
“I pulled him over on my side and was able to swim back to shore fully clothed with him in tow,” Sewell said, adding that his wife, Jessica, who was also recreating at the beach, backed him up on the rescue.
Jessica, also a trained life guard who knew the routine, saw her husband run into the water fully clothed and ran to Sewell’s truck and retrieved his police radio, first aid gear for CPR, life jacket and throw bag, according to Sewell.
However, upon reaching shore and being met by family members, Ledford became responsive and declined additional medical attention.
“Once ashore his shock began to wear off, and after I returned from changing into a dry uniform, I am thankful to say he was back to normal enjoying a day at a Corps beach with his family,” Sewell said.
Sewell was the right person in the right place at the right time, according to Dave Robinson, resource manager for both Martin’s Fork and Laurel Lakes.
“Ranger Brent Sewell’s quick reaction, life guard training, and swimming ability undoubtedly prevented another tragedy,” said Robinson.
This rescue took place during a Labor Day weekend that saw three drowning incidents in the Cumberland River Basin, including one at J. Percy Priest, another Nashville District Lake.
The body of 39-year-old Harvey C. Butler of LaVergne, Tenn., was recovered from Nashville District’s J. Percy Priest Lake Sept. 2 by the Metro Nashville-Davidson County Rescue Team. He had been thrown into the water and never resurfaced after two boats collided the day prior. Four others were hospitalized with injuries.
Two young Middle Tennesseans reportedly drowned within hours of each other in separate incidents Labor Day afternoon. The body of 18-year-old Matthew Grissom was recovered near the Walter Hill Dam in northern Rutherford County, and the body of Abdala Amsabil, 22, of Nashville was recovered in 11 feet of water at Burgess Falls, south of Cookeville, Tenn. Safety warnings have been issued after previous drowning at both non-Corps sites, according to news reports.
Butler is the 11th water related fatality on Nashville District’s 10 lakes during fiscal 2013, which began Oct. 1, 2012. The average age is 31. None were wearing life jackets.