FLINTSTONE, Md. (WJZ/AP) — Six campers stranded by high water at a Maryland state forest have been rescued.
They were led to safety by Maryland Natural Resources Police (DNR) officers and Maryland Park Service and Forestry Service staff.
National Resources Police Public Information Officer Candus Thomson told the Cumberland Times-News that rescuers used kayaks, personal flotation devices and chain saws to assist the campers
One of the campers, David Addair, spent four and a half years in the Navy where he did time with an Army team that went to Afghanistan.
But this weekend, Addair’s military survival training didn’t prepare him for what he’d find in the wet Green Ridge State Forest located halfway between Hagerstown and Cumberland.
His camping group started out as 50 men in an annual gathering called the Mayfield Memorial.
Heavy rains on Saturday made the Potomac swell so much that the outfitter which rented the group canoes came to say that the river was unsafe and they should not continue on the river on Sunday. About 40 of the men packed up and headed home, many to the Baltimore area.
Addair was one of six who stayed, fishing at a campsite at the bend of the Potomac, just below a steep hill. At 2 a.m. Sunday night, one of the men woke the others — there was a roar in the forest as the nearby hillside collapsed.
Small streams became rivers and the Potomac was on the rise.
“It was kind of like being at an old castle with a moat around you at this point, there was nowhere to go,” Addair said.
At daybreak they realized they needed to look for a way out.
“We start moving trees and logs out of the way and we get up a little further and realize that there is no road at all, the mountain has slid down,” he said.
All the while it’s raining and the sound of rushing water is deafening.
“You couldn’t hear anything but rushing water, You couldn’t hear the rain falling because how loud the water was roaring,” Addair added.
WJZ Reporter Mike Schuh asked Addair, “At what point did you start to doubt… to say to yourself do I have this?”
Addair said, “When we saw the second road was gone. We immediately said: there’s absolutely no way out, let’s figure out the next plans, we’re going to be stuck here.”
Two campers hiked to highest terrain they could find to get a cell signal to call DNR.
“DNR comes back maybe 5 minutes later and says there’s only one option, we have to get you out now, we have to evacuate. We have another 4 or 5 more inches of rain coming.”
Hours later DNR uses personal flotation devices and a kayak to run a stout cable across a the water that is estimated to be 3 feet deep and quickly rushing downstream.
A rescuer held onto each man as they both hold onto the cable and shuffle sideways across the torrent.
“I was in the military, went to war and everything, and I told the guys as we were standing there that was probably the most scary situation we were in because not just being trapped there… but then you hear the slide of the mountain, trees coming down, big boulders tumbling down right behind our campsite from where we are 50 feet or so,” Addair said.
Soon, all six men, aged 30 to 62 were on the right side of the river. They hugged those who got them out, thanking them for risking their lives to save them.
When asked if they were going camping next year, Addair said he was.
An assessment of damages will be conducted Monday.
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