A homeless Williamsburg man living in a tent beside the Cumberland River got a rude awakening late Sunday morning when rising waters floated his tent downstream.
Williamsburg Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Todd said Jerry Shadoan was asleep in his tent when the water rose and floated him downstream about 11 a.m. Shadoan was on an air mattress in his tent, according to The Associated Press.
“He floated about 30 yards and got caught up in some trees, thank the Lord,” Todd said. “He was still inside his tent when assistant chief Troy Thomas located him.”
Shadoan said he was put out of the homeless shelter on March 13, and he stayed two weeks at the Super 8 until his money ran out. Then he moved into a tent along the riverbank.
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“I had a scooter and everything down there,” Shadoan said.
Shadoan said it was the craziest thing that has ever happened to him. He didn’t realize he was in the river at first, and when he did, he called 911 from his cellphone.
Whitley County Emergency Management director Danny Moses, who assisted with the rescue, said he carries at least 100 feet of rope and a life jacket or two in his vehicle.
“Today, it actually paid off,” he said Sunday.
“We tied the rope to the life jacket and let it float to the guy, who was in the middle of the river. At least he was safe until we were able to get a boat to him.”
Todd said firefighters got their boat in the river near the Cumberland Avenue bridge and were able to reach Shadoan.
Todd said it was one of the strangest rescues that he has been involved with.
“Every day is a different trip. Every day is a different type of incident,” he said.
Moses agreed that this was definitely a “different kind of rescue.”
Todd, who turned 60 on Sunday, said it was a heck of a birthday present, and he was happy that it was a rescue rather than a recovery.
Said Moses: “When it turns out this way, everybody feels a lot better.”
Shadoan said he is thankful for all the emergency workers who helped rescue him.
Williamsburg police, Woodbine Fire and Rescue, and Whitley County EMS assisted.