For the second time in 12 days, rescue crews had to pull stranded kayakers from the Rocky Fork Creek Gorge on Thursday.
This time two adults, an 8-year-old child and two dogs were rescued after kayaks in which they were riding tipped over in the Highland Nature Sanctuary area.
The incident took place around 100 to 150 feet from where two kayakers were rescued on June 25, according to Branden Jackman, public information officer for the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District.
The big difference this time, though, was that two rescue crews were working at the scene at the same time.
Jackman said the fire district received a call reporting the incident at 5:07 p.m. He said a female, who was in one of the kayaks with an 8-year-old, was able to contact Highland County rescue personnel and report and she and the child were OK, but they had no idea where the male in the other kayak was.
From what he was told, Jackman said, there is a location in the creek around where both accidents happened where a tree has fell into the creek and is blocking part of it.
“They got in a mess, capsized, lost a kayak and got separated, and everything just compounded from there,” Jackman said.
The male, later identified as James Brightman, had two Australian shepherd dogs with him, one full grown and one a puppy.
The male was eventually located on a rock outcrop and was away from the water, Jackman said, but there was no good way for him to get away from the rock.
“With the water being as high as it was, the only option was to float down the creek, but that was not a viable option with two dogs,” Jackman said. “The only other way out was 100 feet straight up a cliff.”
Once rescue personnel located the scene, Matt Wendel went over the edge of a cliff in one harness while carrying another one. Jackman said Wendel strapped Brightman into the extra harness, then strapped the adult dog to Brightman. Wendel brought the puppy back to the top of the cliff with him.
While that was happening, another crew was working to rescue the female and child. Jackman said rescuers were able to find a washout that led down to the creek and that they were able to walk the woman and child out, along with their kayak.
The other kayak was lost.
Two of Paint Creek’s three stations – one located in Hillsboro and one near Rainsboro – responded to the scene, along with the Highland County Grain Bin Rescue Team comprised of rescue personnel from Paint Creek, Leesburg, Lynchburg and Fayetteville. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources was also on the scene.
From the time Wendel went over the edge of the cliff, Jackman said it took about 50 minutes to get everyone safely back up to the top. By that time, it was 7:01 p.m.
There were no injuries.
“The ODNR said that as long as $100 kayaks continue to be sold, we’re going to continue to have this problem,” Jackman said.
He also said that at one point the ODNR was going to deploy a jet propulsion boat, but the conditions were not good to use it due to all the debris in the water.
“It was a textbook rescue,” Jackman said. “Everything went according to plan, no one was injured, and all our people went home safe.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]