Water rescue on the Big River; family rafting trip goes awry


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. – A family opted to spend the hot summer Sunday with a rafting trip on the Big River. But a few poor decisions led to the De Soto Rural Fire Protection District coming and making a rescue.

Around 4:15 p.m., Jefferson County 911 dispatchers received a call from a woman for a water rescue on Big River near the Merrill Horse Access.

Authorities said the woman reported her husband got off the raft and found himself in trouble. Family members said the man was intoxicated and not a good swimmer and, at one point, he was hanging onto a limb near the riverbank to stay afloat.

Deputy Fire Chief Gary Arnold said they launched their boats and found him on the bank about two miles upriver from the access point.

“When we arrived, boaters told us he was hanging upstream approximately two miles. We deployed our boats, went down,” Arnold said. “Our guys found the subject and brought him back to his family.”

Bystander Heather Thurman was on Big River with her family and helped in the rescue.

“As we were coming up the bank up there,” she said. “He was okay but he didn’t know how to swim. At first, they said he was hanging on to just a limb.”

Fortunately, the man wasn’t hurt and did not require any medical attention.

Deputy Chief Arnold said small mistakes can add up and lead to tragedy in the water if people aren’t cautious.

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