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Amos workers help rescue couple after boat capsizes in Kanawha River

by on August 12, 2015
Todd Rickman, an Amherst Madison tugboat captain, looks along the Kanawha River at the John E. Amos Power Plant. In June, Rickman and his crew helped rescue a couple from the river after their small catamaran boat capsized. Photos by Matthew Thompson.

(Story by Matthew W. Thompson)

WINFIELD, W.Va – It was about 4:20 p.m. when Chris Carroll heard the screams.

Carroll, a heavy duty lift operator at the John E. Amos Power Plant, works on the Kanawha River. His job duties include using an equilibrium crane, known more commonly as an E-Crane. He maneuvers the crane’s large capacity bucket to move coal from barges to the plant´s coal yard.

On June 18, Carroll was in the operating booth of his crane, unloading a stone barge. After a brief power outage at the plant, Carroll restarted his computer and decided to step out of the booth for some fresh air.

That’s when he heard the sounds of screams emanating from the Kanawha River.

“At first I thought it was kids,” Carroll said. “Then I saw two people – a man and a woman – floating down the river.”

What Carroll spotted was a couple in the water after their catamaran boat had capsized. Without life jackets or anything to grasp for safety, the couple was adrift and shouting for help.

The remnants of a catamaran boat as it was found in the Kanawha River by crews stationed at the John E. Amos Power Plant in June.

“Luckily, it was a light traffic day on the river,” Carroll said.

Carroll lept into action and telephoned the M/V Shirley, a Amherst Madison tugboat that provides barge movement, construction assistance and harbor management for the Amos Plant.

Todd Rickman, the boat’s captain, sounded the general alarm and got his crew on the deck to proceed to the scene. Rickman directed the boat as close to the couple as they safely could and began the rescue process.

“We got the woman out pretty quick. We threw her a life ring and just yanked her out,” Rickman said. “It took a couple extra minutes to get her husband out. He couldn’t swim and was a little panicked.”

Once on the boat, Rickman said the female passenger sprawled out on the vessel from exhaustion. Her husband sat on the boat, clutching his knees into his chest.

“We didn’t see any apparent injuries on the individuals,” Rickman said.

After making sure they weren’t looking for a third individual, the crew proceeded back to the Amos boat ramp. Local fire and rescue officials from nearby Poca were awaiting their arrival. Emergency services personnel checked out the couple for injuries and took them away in ambulances.

At the request of the state’s Division of Natural Resources, Rickman and his crew then retrieved the couple’s sinking vessel. It was spotted bobbing in and out of the water. The crew then towed the remnants of the boat back to the ramp.

Both Carroll and Rickman have not heard from the couple since the incident. Although it was a chaotic experience, Rickman said it was all in a day’s work for him.

“We hope that this incident will remind people to use caution when having fun on the water,” Rickman said. “It could have turned out worse than it did. We’re just happy that it didn’t.”

From → News From AEP

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