Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A death at the Townsend Wye

Monday morning we headed into Tremont for a hike. We finished the 8-mile-r/t to Indian Flats Falls and were back at the car by 11:45am. On the drive out, there was a mass of Search and Rescue vehicles, Fire Rescue, ambulances, Park Rangers, etc at the parking area of the Townsend Wye (a very popular swimming/tubing spot on the Little River).

Obviously a search was underway for a person in the water. We stopped and talked to a young couple sitting on the sidewalk in bathing suits, they'd been in the water when the event occurred but didn't see anything. They had heard from others that the search was on for a man who was tubing with a 2-year-old girl when the tube flipped and they both fell into the water. The child was said to have been recovered safely but the man was unaccounted for and reportedly could not swim. We heard this same story repeated a few times, including from one emergency responder guy (with fire?rescue?not sure) who said he'd heard the baby was ok.

All swimmers/tubers had been ordered from the river and a handful of swift-water rescue searchers were scouring the rocks, ledges and logs in the rushing waters downstream from the Wye (the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek).

By now, scuba divers had suited up and entered this deeper pool upstream from the swift-water searchers, which was reportedly where the tube flipped and the last place the man was seen.

A swift-water searcher assists a weighted deep-water scuba diver to move back upstream in the Little River.

We left as the search appeared to be wrapping up, and as we drove into town we saw police had temporarily blocked southbound traffic heading into Cades Cove. A few minutes later an ambulance with lights, no sirens, passed us headed north toward Blount Memorial. Indeed, we checked the news via phone and saw the victim had been recovered and was being transported to the hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after 1pm.

I've not read anything official mentioning the involvement of a child.

Here are some news links:

Such occurrences really underscore the uncertainty of life. One moment you can be having a wonderful time, and in the blink of an eye.... it's all gone.
Also important to think about is safety and preparedness. The man (reportedly) could not swim, yet participated in an activity that included both deep and rushing water. Tubes can be highly fickle and should not be considered life-safety devices. They tip over, they are easy to lose hold of or fall out from; they are heavy and awkward to move. River rocks are slippery, shift around and are difficult to walk on. It can be very hard to judge water depth. Please be very careful when tubing, especially with young children. If you can't swim, strongly consider wearing a life jacket or avoiding participation.


PoetessWug said...

How sad!! :-( I hadn't heard anything about this. I don't know if I want to know the details...except whether the child is okay. Maybe I'll check out the news links. :-(

Trail Guy said...

Very, very sad! I really hope the child was ok. This kind of thing happens at least once or twice every summer here in Washington.

Your story reminded me of a hike we did last summer with our 3 kids. We hiked down a two mile trail to see some falls and then my wife and kids continued to the trailhead at the bottom end of the hill while I ran back up to get the car to meet them. As started back up the trail I heard a faint pop that sound like a gun shot. When I arrived back at the parking lot I found a swarm of police vehicles. Apparently a guy two cars down from ours had been in a standoff with the police and had shot himself. Really sad...was glad my kids weren't there to see what I saw. Yikes!

Steven said...

Bummer. It's a sad story. I just couldn't imagine. You'd seriously think that if you couldn't swim, you'd want a life jacket, right?