Adam Branscum – River Rescue
Adam Branscum decided he was done fishing for the day and was loading up his boat when he heard someone hollering from the other side of the river.
His heart began to pound when he turned and saw a teenage boy being carried away by the swift waters of the White River.
He knew if he were going to save the boy — he had to act fast.
Branscum, 34, of Charlotte has been fishing practically all his life and is a regular visitor to the White River.
Last Friday, he had left straight from work around 4 or 4:30 and went to the river with his Xpress aluminum bass boat.
“I went down by the dam and couldn’t catch anything, so I went downriver and still didn’t catch anything,” he said.
Since the bass weren’t biting, he decided to leave. It was right about 7 p.m. — and leaving before dark is pretty rare for Branscum when he’s hunting or fishing — but he got to the boat ramp, “I heard some kids on the sandbar hollering. I didn’t know what was going on.
“I looked back and saw a kid in the river — it scared me to death.”
That wasn’t the first time he’d found someone in the water. In May 2009, he and buddy Heath Duncan were fishing in the White River and found a body.
“We were fishing at this brush pile and it was about 11 o’clock at night,” he said. They called police, who told them to wait with the body until they could arrive, so they tied their boat to the brush pile.
Five years later, Branscum knew the situation at hand could have the same tragic ending if he didn’t get to the boy soon.
The teenager was in a swift current, trying to doggy-paddle. “The river was up that day and was rolling pretty fast,” Branscum said.
Meanwhile, five or six of the teen’s friends were following him from the shore, hollering, “Keep swimming,” and trying to encourage him to get out of the current.
“I could hear him, ‘Please help, please help,’ and I took off as fast as I could. … He was in bad shape.”
Branscum’s boat was almost back in the water when he remembered the plug.
“I had to get back out and put the plug back in — God reminded me at the last second, or we’d’ve both been in trouble,” Branscum said.
By then, another young man had run up. “I told the kid to back into the water; I didn’t know if he knew how to drive or if he had a license,” but Branscum had already started backing the truck and trailer up. Luckily, the young man was able to get the boat to the water deep enough for Branscum to launch into the river (he was below Lock and Dam 1, near the wastewater treatment facility).
“I was scared to death,” Branscum said. “I went wide open as fast as I could go. I’d seen him go under four or five times,” but the boy was still above water.
However, Branscum could tell the boy was fading fast. He threw a long rope to the boy, who managed to grab it and let Branscum pull him in.
“He was so tired he never reached up to grab the edge of the boat, so I leaned down and grabbed him,” Branscum recalled.
He said his boat has a seat in the middle that he knew would be in the way as he pulled the boy. “I was going to move it and he said, ‘Please don’t let go.’”
He grabbed the boy, limp with exhaustion, with both hands and managed to move the seat to make room. “I dragged him in the boat and he never moved from the time he got in the boat until I brought him up to the bank.”
The boy was so tired, he couldn’t even get out of the boat without two of his friends helping, Branscum said. “I told them to get their car and get some heat on him.”
Branscum said he’s not sure how long the young man was in the water, but from what he understands the boy was at the sandbar with a group of friends and decided he would swim to a small alcove just below Josie’s. When Branscum pulled him out the boy was clad in only a pair of shorts.
“I have a depth finder on my boat, and the water temperature was between 48 and 50 degrees that day,” he noted. “I told them they probably need to take him to the emergency room. I think one of the other kids’ mother came down, and she looked pretty upset. … I’ve got a 13-year-old daughter (Faith Branscum), and I couldn’t imagine hearing about someone pulling her out of the river.”
Branscum said he didn’t catch the boy’s name, but he thought it was either Shane or Shawn, and he’s not sure how old the boy was, other than he looked to be between 14 and 16.
But whether it was sheer luck or fate that caused him to be in the right place at the right time, Branscum is just thankful the boy was all right. “Like I said, I just happened to be leaving early that day, and I was the only boat down there,” he said.
“I guess God’s got a plan for that boy.”