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5 women rescued in White River; WISH-TV photojournalist assists

Eric Feldman - INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- Crews have completed a water rescue of five people at the White River.

Saturday just after 2:30 p.m., crews responded to a call of people stranded in the White River near Meridian Street, across from Holliday Park.

Teams from Indianapolis Fire Department, assisted by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are attempting to rescue the people, located in various parts of the river.

Five people, from Texas and Ohio, were kayaking, when one hit some debris. While trying to get out of it, her kayak flipped over. The others lost control of theirs while trying to save her. Three were stranded on an island; two fought the current floating downstream.

The three on the island were rescued by motor boat. The boat turned against the current to reach the stranded women, something the fire department practices in training. The maneuver is considered very challenging.

"It's not something you do unless you are an experienced boater," said Reith.

The fourth woman was able to swim to shore. 24-Hour News 8 photojournalist Shawn Pierce was already at Holliday Park and helped the fifth woman, Veronica, out of the water.

"I heard Veronica screaming, and then I was like, 'Oh my gosh, people were in trouble,'" he said.

Pierce then grabbed a branch around 12 feet long and extended it to Veronica, who was holding onto a tree while fighting the current.

Now a woman is forever indebted to Pierce. But he said no thank you is necessary.

"Just helping somebody," he said. "You're not doing anything special. Just helping out."

A beautiful Saturday afternoon masks the dangers of Mother Nature, with Friday's downpour leaving water levels extremely high. The White River's current is menacing.

"Even the best swimmer in this kind of a current, things happen," said Battalion Chief Rita Reith from the Indianapolis Fire Department.

Another issue Saturday: none of the five women wore life jackets.

"Don't just sit on it or have it in your boat. You have to be wearing it," Reith said. "Even if you think you're a proficient really really good swimmer, your safety is our primary concern."

IFD said the women helped speed up their rescue. The three stranded on the island called 911 and described what everyone was wearing.

If you do see someone stranded in the water, or you're with someone and he's in trouble, IFD has some recommendations on what to do if the current is rough:

  1. Do not jump into the water after them.
  2. Keep them in eyesight.
  3. Call 911.
  4. Try to extend anything to pull them in (a branch, a life jacket, a rope, etc).


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