[Masthead] A Few Clouds ~ 48°F  
High: 73°F ~ Low: 49°F
Friday, May 6, 2016

Two rescued from Duck River

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jason Smith, left, climbs onto a branch of a fallen tree in Duck River while awaiting a rescue boat. Matt Bernard of the Shelbyville Fire Department frees Melissa Smith's leg from between a branch and their capsized boat.
(T-G Photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
"We would have drowned."

But a cell phone helped save the lives of Jason and Melissa Smith of Shelbyville after they were caught in the raging currents of Duck River near Shelbyville early Monday afternoon.

Both were forced to hold onto a fallen tree in the river after sharp currents capsized their small metal boat just west of Shelbyville between Roddy Road and Tyson Foods.

They were rescued within 20 minutes. Neither was injured.


"We got out in the current and it started pulling us under," Melissa said. "My leg was pinned between the tree and the boat, We called 911."

"We'd been in the river about an hour," Jason said. "There were a few sharp currents that didn't give us no problems. And we got to this sharp current and water started shooting over the boat."

Several downed trees are in the river's channel at that point.

"The boat was going under," Jason said. "It pushed us against the trees laying out in the middle of the river, we held on to a tree and the boat finally went under."

Jason Smith is brought to the banks of Duck River by rescuers Daniel Dye, Mark Thomas and Todd Carter moments after Melissa Smith was removed from the water.
(T-G Photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
But the bucket containing his cell phone remained nearby.

"The phone was still capable of calling 911 and we called for help. 'Cause we couldn't get out of there without no help, we would have drowned."

"We were trapped for about 20 minutes," Melissa said.

Matt Bernard of Shelbyville Fire Department freed Melissa's leg and helped her to shore as Daniel Dye, Chief Mark Thomas and Lt. Todd Carter of the Bedford County Fire Department evacuated Jason by boat.


Rescue crews spent several minutes attempting to determine the Smiths' location before Bedford County Communications Center dispatchers "pinged" their cell phone.

Jason told a Bedford County Communications Center dispatcher that he was unsure of his location but didn't think he had passed Tyson. He was unable to hear rescuers yelling from Fisherman's Park downtown, from where a rescue boat was launched moments after his call.

High-tech help

Com Center dispatchers were able to determine the Smiths' approximate location after a few minutes.

"When a call comes in from a cell phone it has certain data attached to it known as phase 1 data," said Phillip Noel, director of Bedford County Communications Center.

The Smiths' boat is recovered by rescue workers.
(T-G Photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
"We have a way to re-bid, or re-negotiate the call with the cell phone. By capturing phase 2 date we can triangulate a location within 100 meters."


A familiar place suddenly became scary for the Smiths, who say they're experienced at floating Duck River.

"We come here every year and have never had a problem before," Melissa said. "We'd waited a week this year until the water went down."