Pittsylvania County firefighters recovering after being rescued during water rescue

Firefighters swept away while trying to rescue man stuck in floodwater

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. - A picture a Blairs firefighter took of members of the county’s special operations team shows the team rescuing a man on Markham Road Thursday night.

“While they were attempting the rescue, they had a boat malfunction. The engine on the boat malfunctioned and shut down,” Blairs Fire Chief Dean Fowler said.

According to state police, the water pushed the boat into a bridge, causing it to overturn.

Two firefighters fell out and were rescued by state police.

A third firefighter fell out and was swept downstream and rescued by a local resident.

Fowler said the firefighters are trained for situations like this.

“They’re trained to self-rescue, to position themselves in the water to float to the shoreline,” Fowler said.

One firefighter received minor injuries.

All three were recovering Friday and were not available for interviews.

Thursday afternoon, 45-year-old James King was swept away when his car got caught in floodwater on Sandy Creek Road.

His body was found about seven hours later.

“My wife had sent me a message and told me about it. It was hard for me to believe that someone lost their life on my road,” Scott McBride, a Sandy Creek Road resident, said.

He said the road doesn’t often flood.

“I’ve been around on this road for about 20 plus years and I’ve only known it to flood in this area maybe two or three times. As far as the way it was y(Thursday), I’ve never seen it like that.”

The boat the Blairs firefighters were in had to be tied to a tree and left until the water receded.

On Friday, the fire department was able to get the boat back.

If it can't be repaired, the fire department could be out about $16,000.

Fowler estimated that the boat and motor each cost about $8,000.

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