By JOSHUA THOMAS
For The Recorder
CANAJOHARIE — More than a dozen rescue agencies assisted in three separate Canajoharie Creek rescues of 13 individuals over the course of more than ten hours beginning Wednesday afternoon and concluding in Thursday’s early morning hours.
A normal, meandering Canajoharie Creek transformed Wednesday into rushing whitewater after Ames received a deluge of rain. While Canajoharie Police Chief Bryan MacFadden said it’s routine for the department to close Wintergreen Park in the case of an emergency or unsafe conditions, there was no notice that the quick afternoon downpour in Ames would so rapidly facilitate a dangerous situation downstream.
At 4:16 p.m., a call was placed to 911 requesting rescue for six people trapped along Canajoharie Creek off Mill Street. The individuals were at the Boiling Pot when they were suddenly besieged by rushing water.
As the Canajoharie Fire Department rescued that group, another call was placed to 911. The Canajoharie fire and police departments received word that three people were trapped between the Wintergreen Park creek entrance and Wintergreen Falls.
Those three individuals were extracted from the west side of the creek and rescuers accessed them through the Falls Cemetery, off Route 10.
Word was then received that four more individuals were trapped along the Canajoharie Creek about 100 feet down the cliff face in a different location between the creek entrance and Wintergreen Falls. The extraction lasted several hours, with rescue agencies entering the creek from the top of Wintergreen Park along the nature trail traversing the ravine.
MacFadden said “well over a dozen” first responders and rescue agencies were involved in the three extractions, including the Canajoharie Fire Department, Canajoharie Police Department, Rural Grove Rescue, Ames Fire Department, Rural Grove Fire Department, Montgomery County Emergency Management, Schoharie County Swift Water and Rope Rescue, Fulton County Emergency Services, New York State Police, and state fire agencies.
While MacFadden said there were several highly professional people assisting with Wednesday and Thursday’s rescues, there were also “a number of volunteers who gave hours and hours of their time,” working in the heat and humidity to ensure the safe rescue of those in peril.
“This rescue couldn’t have been done without the incredible manpower of the volunteers,” MacFadden said.
He said the rescues involved securing the people trapped in the creek, then hoisting them to safety, requiring teams of 10 to 12 individuals utilizing hundreds of feet of rope.
MacFadden referred to the rescue process as “very labor intensive,” noting that while he’s been involved with serious Canajoharie Creek-related rescues in the past, this situation was unique. He said with water so high, and people trapped in various sections of the creek, “there were so many unknown factors.”
Amongst the 13 rescued, there were only a few minor injuries, which were treated on scene.
No charges will be pressed, as everybody requiring rescue was in the creek legally.
MacFadden issued advice to those planning to enjoy the Canajoharie Creek, which changes very quickly because of its narrow, yet vast structure, this summer.
“When you’re around water, keep well aware of the conditions,” MacFadden said. “Always leave yourself an out.”