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Cell phone proves its worth in emergency

Cell phone proves its worth in emergency

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2009 9:16 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

Cell phone proves its worth in emergency | Cell phone proves its worth in emergency
 By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter It was only a contraption called a cell phone, but its value manifested itself in saving the lives of two duck hunters whose boat capsized early Christmas Day on Reelfoot Lake. About 5:45 a.m., two boats — one 16 feet long, the other 18 feet long — were launched from a state park. Bradley Evans and his brother, Bill Evans Jr., both of Troy, were in one. Robert Evans and Ed Evans, both of Troy, were in the other. Bradley, Bill Jr. and Robert are brothers; Ed is their uncle. They are all duck hunters, which is why they were on Reelfoot Lake, where a mean west wind had set up these weather conditions — temperatures in the low 30s, wind gusts 40 to 45 mph, a 20-degree wind chill and water temperatures of 45-50 degrees. Nevertheless, the two boats containing four members of the Evans family launched from a ramp and headed into open water, beyond familiar stands of tall cypress trees. About 200 yards out, the trouble started. “The boat came down and hit a wave and the wave came in on the boat,” Ed Evans said. “The boat was full of water. I told Robert, ‘I think we need to turn around and go back.’ But it was too late.” Ed said they were headed to a duck blind at Grooms Pocket in the Swan Basin area of the lake. Ed’s boat capsized. The other boat, which contained Bill Evans Jr. and Bradley Evans, was disabled when it hit, possibly, an underwater stump, affecting the outboard engine’s propellor shaft. It drifted away. “Our boat couldn’t get back to them because it had a pin shear,” Bradley Evans said. “We lost (use of) the motor. It all pretty much happened at the same time. Their boat flipped and ours hit a stump and broke a shaft.” Life jackets It is estimated the two Evans men were in the cold waters about an hour. “I had my life jacket on,” Ed said. “Later, I asked Robert, ‘You got your life jacket on, don’t you?’ He said, ‘No, I don’t have one on.’” Robert, a student at Obion County Central High School, told The Messenger that when the boat was about to go down, he grabbed a seat cushion. “That’s all I could reach,” he said. “Then the boat sunk and started to flip. So I dove out in the water as it flipped over. I had the seat cushion, and it was floating me. I swam around to the back of the boat and held on to the (boat’s) handles.” He and his uncle Ed were in the water almost an hour before they were rescued by men in a “red looking” boat, one of whom was Lt. John Shumate of the Samburg Volunteer Fire Department. Robert told of the effects of being in the water so long. “It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was mostly pain, stinging pain,” he said. “At the end, the last thing I remember was John Shumate’s boat pulling up to me. I woke up in the hospital.” Back in the water, Ed was trying to take care of Robert. “We all prayed. Sure did,” Robert said. “Prayed somebody would come get us.” Cell phone Luckily, Bradley Evans had a cell phone. “The first call I made on my cell phone was at 5:59 a.m.,” Bradley said. “The first thing I did was dial 911 and told them what happened. Then I called anybody I knew around the lake that had a boat, but no one answered. Just voice mail. Then I called Dad (Bill Evans Sr. of Troy) and told him. That was it. I wasn’t in the water. I was in a boat. Our boat was disabled, it drifted away, but it never went down.” Bill Evans Sr. said he received the first phone call about the men’s situation at 6:11 a.m. He made a call for help, then quickly got dressed and headed for the lake. Hanging on Back at the capsized boat, young Robert Evans was literally hanging on for dear life. One of the two men found a flashlight. Its little beacon of life might make a big difference. They began shining it. “My hands were so cold, I thought I was gripping the flashlight, but it slid out of my hand,” Robert said. Unknown to them, a rescue boat with Shumate had seen their flashlight beams and was drawing nigh. “You couldn’t see anything but their little flashlight shining,” Shumate said. “You could not see a boat, nor a body. The only way we knew somebody was out there was that little flashlight. In the water, Ed told Robert, “You keep that light up.” Hunters forever Ed and Robert were rescued, taken via pontoon boat to a boat ramp and transferred to an ambulance that transported them to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City for treatment of possible hypothermia. Ed Evans was treated and released Saturday. Robert Evans was treated and released about 11 a.m. Sunday. Bradley Evans and Bill Evans Jr. were examined and released. They’d been through a life-threatening, harrowing experience. Does it change their minds about duck hunting? No, it does not. “I was planning on going again tomorrow or the next day,” Robert said. “We’ll just stay out of open water. We’ll find some calm water.” Typical gear for a duck hunter during brutal winter weather includes “a good pair of coveralls, plus boots, face mask, layered clothes, jogging pants, jeans, T-shirt, sweat, toboggan and gloves.” “We’ll hunt again. We’ll just be careful,” Ed Evans said. Aftermath The Evans men said they lost shotguns, shotgun shells and other personal gear when their boat capsized at Reelfoot Lake. Sunday, they made arrangements for their 18-foot aluminum boat to be retrieved from its watery grave at the lake. Published in The Messenger 12.28.09

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