Mom, Daughters Wait On Rocks For An Hour Before Being Rescued

Watched Missing 73-Year-Old Woman Be Swept Away
Posted at 4:49 PM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 19:27:50-04

Two mothers and two daughters recount the flooding, water rescues and missing 73-year-old woman from Wednesday at Cummins Falls.

It was supposed to be a fun river trip. Debbie Wrangel, her daughter Gabby, and Dawn Minkley and her daughter Rahmyah Roark were all at Cummins Falls for some fun in the water and a picnic, Wednesday. The two young girls were playing in the water downstream from the falls when suddenly, the water began to raise at an alarming rate.

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"It was not even 10 seconds. I looked at her and I looked at the falls," said Minkley. "There was no warning."

What was once clear water on the falls turned muddy and much more intense as water dragged debris over its edge.

Gabby and Rahmyah had just climbed out of the water onto a rock. Minkley knew something was wrong and yelled for them to stay there.

"We were just sitting on a rock and the water kept going up to your ankles," said Gabby. "There was some logs getting swept around. There was one big log that got swept down the river."

As the two girls watched the water raise an estimated three feet in a matter of minutes, they watched a nearby family struggle to keep their footing on the rocks as they held each other's hands for support.

"I tried so hard to get the life jackets to them. I tried to wade out," said Dawn. "To me, it's kind of like, could I have done something else? Or thrown one more life jacket? She was right there. They were right there."

According to the group, rangers arrived and yelled for the family in the water to hold on.

"We really couldn't do anything about it because we had to wait a really long time and we had to stay still and the water was pushing the family. And they were trying to hold on for their life," said Rahmyah. "Every time one person got swept away I was like, 'I hope they're ok.'"

Rahmyah and Gabby stayed on the rocks for an hour and a half as rescuers tried to figure out a way to help all of the stranded swimmers. During that time, three people from the nearby family were swept down river.

Minkley broke down as she looked over video she had taken from the shoreline. "I was so scared because we couldn't reach them," she said. "I just never want to do that again."

Both girls were eventually evacuated by helicopter. The aircraft flew feet above the rushing water and plucked both girls from the rock. Both mothers were able to repel up a cliff to escape the area. None of them sustained any serious injuries.

"It was honestly the scariest day of my life," Debbie said.