Dozens Rescued From French Broad River

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Sevierville (WVLT) - Rescuers pulled more than 50 rafters, kayakers, and tubers from the French Broad River Monday afternoon.

It all started around 4:30 p.m. when the Sevier County Fire Department responded to a call to rescue two tubers stuck under a tree. A combination of the rushing water and a brewing storm prompted them to tell rescuers that a group upstream also needed help, but the rafting company they were with says everything was fine.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy has the latest.

The manager of Mountain View Canoe and Wild Water Limited says he was with his group of 84 on the river when rescuers arrived, and he couldn't have been more surprised.

He says the group from Memphis put their kayaks, inner-tubes, and inflatable kayaks in the water upstream at the Douglas Dam, but about a half-hour earlier, two people bought tubes and traveled down the river by themselves. They were the ones who called 911.

After rescuers got them to shore, they drove upstream to the larger group. Rescuers say they found several children in the river, cold and scared by thunder and lightening. The Sevierville Fire Department and rescue squad pulled 54 people to shore.

Of that, 25 were children and they were treated for mild-hypothermia at the scene. Then, they were released.

However, the company manager says he's doesn't understand why the rescue happened at all.

"I was picking up the rear. I followed everyone down river and there was nobody in any trees. All the kids were in the current and everything was under control. I got almost to the end, and I see the boats coming out with fire rescue and all that. I was just shocked," Mountain View Canoe manager Rick Bernadi said.

"With the weather the way it was when they encountered the group, and they were quite a few children who were scared and frightened. I think it was very fortunate we were there," Sevierville spokesman Bob Stahlke said.

The company manager says everyone with his group was wearing life jackets.

Around 35 rescue workers from five agencies in Sevier County and Sevierville responded to the rescue.

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