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Teens touted as heroes after rescuing capsized hunters

Teens touted as heroes after rescuing capsized hunters

By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

Color these two youth — Jordan Clouse, 16, of Union City and Patrick Haskins, 16, of Troy — heroes.
Shy and reticent and modest, they quietly share their experience and downplay their deeds by saying they were just in the right place at the right time.
But it’s more than that. Much more.
Because of these two young men — these two football players at Obion County Central High School, these two avid duck hunters — three men and a teenager from Gibson County escaped possible death.
The four who seemingly received a new lease on life are duck hunters whose small boat capsized on Reelfoot Lake in the pitch dark amid choppy waves about 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
Having heard of the rescue, The Messenger investigated and determined the basic facts of the incident. However, the identities of the rescued hunters could not be learned. It is believed one was about 60, two in their 40s and one in his late teens. All are said to be from Gibson County.
The basics
About 5 a.m. Sunday, Clouse and Haskins launched Haskins’ boat — 16 feet long and four feet wide at its widest points, and powered by a 25-horsepower Mercury motor — from South Shore Resort. It was not the first time they’d been on the lake, nor the first time they’ve hunted together. They’ve been duck hunting buddies several years. And they are hunting and fishing enthusiasts at Reelfoot Lake.
Sunday morning, the two youths launched their boat and headed to a duck blind in the Walnut Log area.
Weather conditions were rough: Temperatures in the low 30s, wind gusts to 25 miles an hour, white caps on the lake. The boys were dressed for the weather — bib overalls, coats, caps, gloves.
“We were going across open water and happened to look up. As we approached the boat trail (in the Samburg Ditch area), we saw somebody flashing their lights,” Clouse said. “We got a little past and saw the whole back of their boat was under water. We pulled over there real quick. I got on the bow of our boat, reached out and grabbed a guy’s arm and pulled him closer to us.
“It was three men and a boy, about 15. We pulled up and grabbed him, too. He got into the boat first.”
But about that time, the men in the water started panicking. Their boat rolled and they fell into the lake.
“We started picking them up. I was up front. Patrick was in back, holding a light on us. I grabbed one guy, pulled him into our boat. There was an older man in the water. He seemed weak, he was so cold, too. I grabbed him, but couldn’t pull him in. Patrick was yelling at them. They were panicking, about to swamp our boat. Finally, we got them all into our boat and we pulled over to a tree,” Clouse said.
“We knew Patrick’s father (Union City police officer Stan Haskins) was right behind us. He’d launched a boat at South Shore, about five minutes behind us.
“He pulled up. He had a lot bigger boat. Two of the men got in the boat with him, and two got in a boat with (Reelfoot Lake guide) Gary Arnett (who was in the area and stopped to help). They took the four hunters back to South Shore Resort. We went on and hunted. We knocked down about six ducks.”
Arnett could not be reached for comment.
“We were just about to Samburg Ditch, maybe 200 yards from it, when we heard somebody hollering,” Haskins said. “I had the ‘Q’ beam and shined it over there. All I could see was a gas tank floating and decoys and bags floating and some guys hollering for help. They were about 15 yards away.
“By the time we got to them, their boat was just about sunk. Jordan was up front of our boat, I was in back. It was rough, but we got them all in our boat.
“They were panicky. The wind was blowing so hard that we had to hold onto a tree. My dad was coming, so I (signaled) with my light and he came over. Two of them got into his boat. It’s bigger than ours, it’s an 18-foot-by-6-foot. And two got into Gary Arnett’s boat. Dad and Mr. Arnett took them to shore.”
Neither Haskins nor Clouse recalls seeing life jackets in the hunters’ boat.
And there’s another thing, the size of the boats.
“That boat of mine isn’t very big, so we had to pull them in one at a time,” Haskins said. “If they’d all tried to get in all at once, they’d have swamped us. We’d all have ended up in the lake.”
Voice of a father
Jordan is the son of Stephanie Dodd of Union City and Keith and Wende Clouse, also of Union City. Haskins is the son of Stan and Jeri Haskins of Troy.
Stan Haskins, who works third shift and gets off duty at 6 a.m., could not be reached for comment.
“We are very proud of them,” Keith Clouse said. “They reacted immediately, they didn’t panic, they did the right thing. They handled it very well. Like I said, we are all so very proud of them.”
Lessons learned
Keith Clouse said there are lessons to be learned from this almost tragic incident. The four duck hunters were in a very small boat. “That’s mistake No. 1. And I doubt they had life vests on,” he said.
In fact, both young men said they saw no life jackets either on the hunters or in the water.
“These hunters were from Gibson County and evidently weren’t familiar with conditions on Reelfoot Lake,” he said. “The wind was gusting 20 miles an hour. To even leave the bank in that size boat is mistake No. 2. They are lucky those boys came along when they did. Otherwise, it could have had a tragic outcome.”
Looking back
Jordan and Patrick seemed a little shy about discussing their role in the rescue of the Gibson County hunters. Jordan admits it left him with a feel-good feeling.
“It made us feel pretty good about ourselves, knowing that if it weren’t for us, they might not be here any more,” Jordan said. “We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. What I got out of it was you’ve got to make sure you have life vests at all times.”
A junior at OCCHS, he said his favorite subject is English. In addition to academics, he’s enrolled in a carpentry course at the vocational center. And he was a defensive end on the OCCHS Rebels football team.
Patrick, a sophomore and a Rebels running back, said he’s glad he and his friend could be there to help get people of a desperate situation. “They were very lucky. It could have been a tragedy,” he said. “One thing I learned is, make sure you’ve got life jackets and wear them.”
A typical teen
Two 16-year-olds in a boat on Reelfoot Lake. Two teens leave warm beds at home to bundle up, grab gear and go duck hunting on a cold, cold morning? Isn’t that a bit unusual?
Not really, according to Patrick.
“It’s a lot easier to get up and go duck hunting than it is to get up and go to school,” he said.
His favorite subject at OCCHS? “Lunch. But if I had to pick one, it’d be physical science.”
Proud official
When she heard about the rescue, OCCHS principal Linda Short expressed sentiments of praise for Jordan and Patrick.
“These boys practiced what we encourage every day at Obion Central — concern and care,” she said. “Their heroic efforts are an example of the character of the two boys. Our students are told on a daily basis to treat other people like they want to be treated.”
Published in The Messenger 12.19.07

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