By Joe Johnson
Three people were rescued Thursday night from the Middle Oconee River in Watkinsville after falling from a canoe and being swept away by water made turbulent by a winter storm that had blown through the area.
"It was an adult with his son, and the son’s friend who fell out of a canoe," Oconee County Fire Chief Bruce Thaxton said. "They were stranded on tree debris and needed help out of the flooded river."
According to the fire chief, 25 Oconee County Fire Rescue personnel responded to a 6:25 p.m. report of people yelling for help in the area of the river where it flows by the Ryland Hills subdivision.
Also responding to the water emergency were personnel from the Ooneee County Sheriff's Office and National EMS.
A fire officer noted in an incident report that the river was in flood stages with its edges exceeding about 50 yards outside of the banks.
The rive's current was said to be very swift.
When firefighters made their way by boat to the victims they noted that the man and two boys were clinging to the top of a tree and none of them wore a life vest.
The rescuers tossed out personal flotation devices for the victims to use and with ropes and water rescue techniques they ferried the victims to safety.