“Every second matters” | Water rescue of children, woman benefits entire county

Date: 2021-10-09 00:22:30

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Raging river water nearly caused a woman and four children to drown Thursday night in Cocke County following heavy rainfall. According to a Tennessee Highway Patrol incident report, a 25-year-old woman, driving an SUV that was carrying four children under the age of 8, tried to cross over the French Broad river to visit a relative.

Their saving grace was a daring rescue by the newly trained and certified Cocke County Swift Water Rescue Team. It had completed its certification less than a week before.

“Every second matters,” said Emergency Management Director Joe Esway. “Nothing gets blood pumping harder and faster than knowing children are involved.”

After rounds of calculated tactics and calming down a worried group of kids, the family was pulled from the stranded car, across raging water, to the safety of a nearby shore.

Esway told WVLT News the team has been a long time in the making. He noticed there was a need for such a team in the flood-prone area. He spent countless hours forming a team of volunteers and getting the county’s approval to fund the unit. The team can respond to water rescues faster and more effectively.

The county mayor and Esway are working on expanding emergency resources with a mass notification system that would send warning alerts to anyone in the area.

THP said the woman will not face any charges after a reported criminal investigation.

The children inside the car were 8, 5, 3, and 2-years-old.

According to THP’s report, the driver, 25-year-old Elizabeth Hartsell of Newport, crossed the river on private property to visit her mother. When she crossed back over, the river “had rose several inches causing the vehicle to wash down river.”

Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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