Couple help rescue fishermen after losing boat
VIDALIA — Two fishermen lost their fishing boat Friday evening when it was pulled out from under them after they got too close to an outflow gate while fishing near the Old River Control Complex in southern Concordia Parish.
As bad as that loss might be, the two unidentified men easily could have lost their lives, particularly if it were not for the quick action of a Bunkie, La., couple who were fishing nearby and jumped into action.
David Brunson and his wife, Christy, were fishing approximately 300 feet from the six gates, when the couple noticed two fishermen in another boat get too close to the clearly marked hazards.
“They went in and got too close,” David Brunson said.
“The water sucked them back, and they hit the gate. When they hit the gate their boat turned sideways and went straight under the water.”
Brunson estimated the boat slipped under the rushing water after only four or five seconds.
With their boat lost, the two boaters found themselves in danger of being pulled through the open gate and pummeled within a stilling basin on the other side.
The stilling basin is composed of large, vertical concrete posts. Their purpose is to diminish the water’s turbulence before it joins the Red River.
Luckily, they were both able to grab hold of a vertical standpipe near the gate’s opening.
Seconds after witnessing the other boat disappear from sight the Brunsons pulled up their anchors and sped for the shoreline.
After leaping up on shore, David ran to a nearby office and alerted ORCC Structure Operator Wesley Larmartiniere to the two fishermen’s perilous situation and asked that the gates be closed.
In his 16 years of working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several facilities along the Mississippi years, Johnny Dyer, maintenance mechanics supervisor at the ORCC, said he believes he has seen only 16 to 18 people find themselves in similar situations.
He said over those years, perhaps only six or eight people survived the ordeal.
“Normally when something like this happens,” Dyer said, “You end up with dead bodies.”
Dyer said that as the water approaches the six 65-ton gates the water picks up both speed and turbulence.
“It runs back,” Dyer said. “And it runs back fast.”
Even after the order to close the gates was given, the two boaters weren’t immediately saved from the impending danger.
“They probably held on to that pipe for 20 minutes,” Brunson said. “From the time I got across (the water), ran to the office and got back to my boat.”
With the gates closed and ORCC employees watching carefully, Brunson and his wife approached the two men and hoisted them in to their boat and headed back to shore.
“They were kind of in shock,” Brunson said.
“We started idling back (to the ramp) and he (one of the other boaters) said, ‘Man. My uncle’s boat.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about that boat.’”
Knowing the night could have ended much worse than it did, Brunson said he hopes the men keep their harrowing experience in mind should they return to the water.
“You’re lucky you get to go home,” he said. “You don’t know how lucky you are that you’re going home tonight.”