JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO (KTVI)-Three men had to be rescued from the Meramec River Sunday morning after the canoe they were in flipped over in the swollen waters. The rescue took place near the Highway 21 bridge near the St. Louis/ Jefferson County line.
Saline Valley Fire Protection District Chief, Bob Dunn, said the men were in the early to mid 20's. They had been fishing. After the canoe had overturned, they held onto it for their lives as the water swept them away.
Rescuers dropped a line from atop the Highway 21 bridge, to start fishing the men out.
"They're extremely lucky," Dunn said.
Lucky in many ways. First all of, one of their cellphones worked even after their canoe flipped.
"One of them gentleman on the boat was in contact with 9-1-1 on his cell phone and said that they were at the Meramec River Bridge and (Highway) 21," Dunn said.
So Saline Valley firefighters raced to the bridge connecting Jefferson and St. Louis Counties, to do a little fishing of their own. It was actually a 2 stage rescue. Stage 1: rescuers dropped a rope from the bridge as the men floated by below. One of them was able to grab on.
"We were there with the rope. We watched them go under the bridge. One of them was able to grab hold of the rope that we threw to him. The other two couldn't," Dunn said.
The others were swept away with their canoe, before eventually getting hung up in a clump of trees now surrounded by the swollen river.
Rescuers pulled them into a boat and ran a line from shore to the man clinging to that rope from the bridge according to Dunn.
"A couple of firefighters swam through the water, put a life jacket on him, then brought him back. With the options they (the fishermen) had, as fast as the current was, the smartest thing they could do was hold onto their canoe and ride it down there river...it's high and it's fast and there's so much debris in it, especially to be in a canoe," Dunn said.
None of the three were wearing life jackets. They were taken to area hospital to be checked out but appeared to be okay.
The bridge was closed for about an hour Sunday morning during the rescue.