Executing a River Rescue

Executing a River Rescue

On Tuesday, March 4, 1986, Peerce Platt, 58 years old, jumped from the 62nd Street Bridge in Highland Park, PA. A police rescue launch was dispatched to the site and the semi-conscious victim was found.

Sounds easy.

However, the victim weighed over 200 pounds, and his water-logged clothing added to the weight. The officers could not (and most likely neither could I) muscle the 200+-pound victim into the launch. In frustration, they proceeded to drag the victim upstream for 21 minutes to the shore where paramedics were waiting. Sadly, it was too late to save his life.

The two police officers did the best they could considering the circumstances. Yet, for five days, newspaper articles criticized the officers and their department—but never once suggested a remedy.

This problem could happen to any one of us, especially with a high gunneled vessel. (A gunnel is that portion of the boat that starts at the water line and goes up to the rim.) First, it is extremely hard to get any victim, especially an unconscious victim, into a boat, never mind a man weighing over 200 pounds. Secondly, without knowing your river banks and access areas, it is difficult at best to designate a beach entry site to meet with emergency medical service units.

GETTING A VICTIM INTO THE BOAT

Let’s deal with the first problem. Bringing a victim up into a vessel takes more than just practice. It takes technique and equipment.

The strap roll-up technique would have worked very well in the Highland Park incident mentioned above. However, this rescue team did not have the equipment or the training to implement it.

The strap roll-up technique employs both reduced body weight and leverage. First, you should take two 2to 3inch flat webbed straps that are approximately 13 to 15 feet long and put a No. 4 grommet in one end of each strap. Here we can insert a standard carabiner.

In this picture you see a 26-year-old. 98-pound woman bringing a 209-pound man into a 12-foot inflatable boat by herself.

Photo by Walt Hendrick

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