AUDRA STATE PARK, W.Va. — Tragedy was averted Tuesday afternoon as a group of emergency personnel and volunteers rescued a teenage girl from the Middle Fork River.
Swift water swept Maddy Good, 17, of Illinois, off her feet and down the river while swimming with her brother, Alex. The pair first plunged into the river upstream from the bridge crossing the river through Audra State Park.
“She was out playing in the water and it is high and swift,” Belington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Phil Hart said at the scene. “She was able to gain a footing on the rock. She remained there until we could get a life jacket on her and a rope to her.”
“I was with my brother and he was looking the other way and the water swept me away,” Maddy Good told The Inter-Mountain shortly after being pulled from the river. “I was lucky to grab ahold of the rock.”
Good was in the area with her parents, Susan and Mark Good, during their annual trip to the Mountain State to visit with friends.
“They shouldn’t have been out there,” Susan Good said as she wrapped her arms around her daughter. “We didn’t know it (the river) was so high.”
The relieved mother said her family makes a trip to Audra every year to visit with friends. She said the family has spent many days swimming and relaxing on the rocks of the Middle Fork River.
Susan Good said her son, Alex, was also swept into the water while trying to help his sister. She said he traveled further down the river and was “a little banged up” from hitting the rocks. She said he was able to get out of the water and get to his parents for help.
“It was very scary to see (emergency personnel) show up,” Susan Good said. “When I saw her standing, I knew she was OK.”
As emergency personnel arrived on scene, a large group of onlookers gathered along the side of the bridge to watch the rescue. The group cheered as rescuers pulled the youth to safety.
Emergency personnel were assisted on scene by two experienced kayakers who volunteered their time to help. Barret Johnson and Robert Barbor both have a great deal of experience on the Middle Fork River.
“I met with the fire department last night and Phil (Hart) asked if I would be willing to help with water rescues,” Johnson said. “I told him I would.”
Johnson said as soon as he received the call, he contacted Barbor and the pair, who live around 4 miles from the spot of the rescue, grabbed their gear and headed to the river. The two have spent many hours on the water and are planning to paddle the section of the river from the Audra State Park bridge to the covered bridge in Carrollton.
Describing the water Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said, “The level is about a medium flow. It is dangerous for the unexperienced.”
Hart urged anyone heading to the river to beat the summer heat to use caution. He said the recent rains have at times led to dangerous conditions.
“Respect the water,” he warned. “If it is high and swift, stay out of it.”
Tuesday’s water rescue was the second at Audra State Park in the last month.
Hart extended thanks to the other departments who responded to the scene. The Barbour County Emergency Squad, Belington Emergency Squad, Philippi Volunteer Fire Department, Elkins Volunteer Fire Department and the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department all assisted at the scene.