Firefighters save man sinking in Beaver Creek

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By Kate Darnell

A trip to the mailbox for an Oddville man became a life-threatening endeavor last Wednesday afternoon.

Operating a tractor, Robert Delano was traveling on Apple Lane toward his mailbox, when swift creek currents swept his tractor off the low-lying bridge and into Beaver Creek.

With increased cell phone usage due to the snow/ice storm, Delano’s attempts to use his cell phone to call 911 failed. Delano dialed a friend in Mt. Olivet who was able to reach 911.

Harrison County firefighter Doug Brooks responded.

“It seemed like it took forever to get there,” said Brooks.

When Brooks pulled off US Highway 62 East, he was able to see the rising waters of Beaver Creek.

As Delano stood on the seat of the tractor, Brooks said he could see the tractor sinking in the water.

“He was starting to get off the tractor and walk off,” said Brooks.

Along with Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Barnes, Brooks worked to communicate with Delano and calm him down.

“When that water gets up, it gets going pretty good,” said Barnes about Beaver Creek.

Brooks said he knew Delano had to hold on to the tractor if he wanted to survive.

“He would have been gone if he let go,” said Brooks.

With Barnes still communicating with Delano, Brooks began the drive to get to the other side of Beaver Creek.

On the way through Smitsonville Road, past Beaver Baptist Church, Duckworth Road, and finally back on Apple Lane, Brooks came upon Nick and Anthony Carson, who followed him down to the creek.

On the icy/snowy, small country roads, Brooks was only able to go five to 10 miles per hour.

Brooks said he hoped he would make it in time.

“I knew the creek was starting to raise,” he said.

Brooks drove as far as he could in the inclement weather, then walked a quarter of a mile down to the creek.

“Now I’m going to throw this rope,” Brooks told Delano. “Don’t you get mad at me if I hit you on top the head!”

Brooks said he was relieved to hear Delano laugh.

Delano tied the rope around him and stepped off the tractor.

“That’s when the excitement really started,” said Brooks. “He (Delano) took two steps and under the water he went.”

“Bob can’t take this stress,” Brooks heard a neighbor say.

Brooks learned at that point that Delano had heart problems.

“That water was pretty cold,” said Brooks. “The water just took him under. It was kind of scary there for a little bit.”

Brooks and the Carsons began pulling Delano up the bank.

“Once he lost his footing, we started pulling,” said Brooks.

In three to four seconds, Brooks said Delano was out of the creek.

“You could see it in his eyes,” Brooks said. “It was a pretty big shock to him.”

Brooks said he knew Delano needed to get warm... and quick.

Brooks and others loaded Delano into a neighbor’s vehicle and took him to Delano’s house.

“He was pretty cold, but he was doing pretty good then,” Brooks said.

Brooks said Delano’s vital signs were fine.

“The thought crossed my mind that he might go into shock once he got into the house,” said Brooks. “But, he told us he didn’t need the EC unit.”

Brooks said he traveled back to Apple Lane to visit Delano a couple days after the incident.

“He continued to thank me,” said Brooks about Delano.

“I think we saved his life,” Brooks said at his home Tuesday morning. “But I couldn’t have done it myself.”

Brooks said while the incident was dangerous, it was one that exceptional training and good teamwork had allowed him to handle.

“Everyone knows what the other person’s capable of,” Brooks said about the county firefighters. “We’re here to try to make a difference and help people.”

“Doug did exactly what he was supposed to do,” said Barnes.

A Cynthiana native, Brooks said he always wanted to help others.

“Every kid wants to be a firefighter or police officer,” he said. “This is a way I can give back to people and the town.”

Also a volunteer city firefighter, Brooks has been with the county fire department for seven years.

“That’s the goal of life...” Brooks said. “...to help your fellow brother and sister.”