A homeless Williamsburg man, who was living in a tent beside the Cumberland River, got a rude awakening late Sunday morning after rising waters floated his tent downstream in the river.
Williamsburg Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Todd said that Jerry Shadoan, 46, was apparently asleep in his tent on top of an air mattress under the Cumberland Avenue bridge when the water rose and floated him down stream about 11 a.m.
“He floated about 30 yards and got caught up in some trees thank the Lord,” Todd said. “He was still inside his tent when Assistant Chief Troy Thomas located him.”
Shadoan said he was put out of the homeless shelter on March 13, and stayed two weeks at the Super 8 until his money ran out. Then he moved into a tent along the riverbank.
“I had a scooter and everything down there,” Shadoan said.
Shadoan, who noted this was “pretty much” the craziest thing that has ever happened to him, said that he didn’t realize he was in the river at first, and when he did, he called 911 from his cell phone.
“I am camping out here by the river underneath the bridge in Williamsburg,” a calm Shadoan can be heard telling the 911 dispatcher, according to a recording of the call obtained through an open records request. “Apparently where it has rained and the water has rose and stuff I have floated out here in my tent into the river or something.”
Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses, who assisted with the rescue, said that he always carries at least 100 feet of rope in his vehicle and a life jacket or two with him.
“Today, it actually paid off,” he said Sunday. “We tied the rope to the life jacket and let it float to the guy, who was in the middle of the river. At least he was safe until we were able to get a boat to him,” Moses said.
Todd said that firefighters then got their boat in the river near the Cumberland Avenue Bridge after Shadoan put the life jacket on and floated the boat to Shadoan. After pulling him out of the river and rescuers took him to a waiting ambulance to get checked out.
Todd admits this is one of the stranger rescues that he has been involved with during his career.
“Every day is a different trip. Every day is a different type of incident,” Todd noted.
Moses agreed that this was definitely a “different kind of rescue.”
Todd noted that it is unusual to have a water rescue, but he suspects it is probably the first of many more to come.
Todd, who turned 60 years old Sunday, said the water rescue was a heck of a birthday present and he is happy this was a rescue rather than a recovery.
“When it turns out this way, everybody feels a lot better,” Moses added.
Shadoan said he is thankful for all the emergency workers, who came out to assist in his rescue.
The Williamsburg Police Department, Woodbine Fire and Rescue and Whitley County EMS also assisted.