Lt. Rick Hatton

Boone County Water Rescue Team

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I’ve been crazy about the water forever.  I got my scuba diver certification in 1984 and began volunteering for the Boone County Water Rescue Team 22 years ago.

My most dangerous dive was in 1993 involving a 36-foot cigarette boat. This individual ran up and down the river nonstop. Our captain warned him: “If you don’t slow down, one of these evenings you’re going to have a real serious problem.” Two summers later, we got a call that there was a pretty serious accident right up from the Montgomery Inn Boathouse. This gentleman and his buddy had picked up two guys and the four of them were fairly inebriated. They decided to go streaking up and down the river and do some donuts. He comes out of a donut and thought he was either heading upstream or downstream, but headed for the shore at a very high rate of speed. The two guys in the back were ejected onto the shore. I had to suit up and climb under the boat, where I found the driver wrapped around the steering column. Only one passenger survived.

In the 1997 Falmouth flood, people were on their roofs with flashlights at one, two in the morning. All you could hear was wailing. Every once in a while, you could hear a loud cracking and crunching where houses were coming off their foundations. And there would be empty trailers floating down the river. At one point, the captain backed up into a chain link fence and all this shrapnel began flying. It was like being in a hand grenade zone. We got 43 people off the river and out of harm’s way before daybreak.

Death is the hardest part of the job. It’s watching the family, trying to imagine what they are going through. When it’s no longer a rescue, but a recovery, we try to prep them for that.

Illustration by Joel Kimmel.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue.

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