Two 9-1-1 calls to Clark County Dispatch painted the terrifying scene unfolding on the Mad River in Clark County on Labor Day.
Canoers and holiday visitors sprang into action after a woman yelled for help to find a man she said was drowning.
“There’s a guy under the water. He’s not coming out, and we can’t find him,” one caller said.
The caller tells the dispatcher she believes the man has been under the water for at least five minutes. Another caller stayed on the phone with another dispatcher until he saw a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy arrive on scene.
“There’s somebody that’s drowning. It’s a man who’s under the water,” he said.
The Clark County Coroner’s Office identified 26-year-old Dillon Persinger Tuesday morning as the man authorities pulled from the water. The exact cause and manner of his death are still pending.
The incident was reported as a possible drowning around 4:15 p.m. on Monday near the 3700 block of Lower Valley Pike in Mad River Twp.
According to officials, Persinger and a young boy were sitting on a rock in the river and fishing — when the boy fell into the water. Persinger went in after him.
FIRST REPORT: Man dies after trying to save child in Mad River
“He went in to rescue that person and then went under himself,” Mad River Fire Chief Tim Wendling said.
Bystanders rescued the child, and canoers eventually were able to find the man and pull him out.
Medics performed CPR after the man was pulled from the water. Rescuers, with the help of bystanders, took the victim across the river by canoe and up an embankment to a waiting CareFlight medical helicopter. Crews were unable to save the man, and he was pronounced dead about 6 p.m., Wendling said.
Phil Marshall lives nearby on Lower Valley Pike and saw the many emergency vehicles that responded to the drowning on Monday. He doesn’t think the Mad River is especially dangerous. He noted the water isn’t too deep, but he does play it safe when he’s out on the water with his family.
“Wear the vests, I see people with the helmets. It’s just a matter of taking a little bit of precaution,” he said.
Chief Wendling said neither Persinger nor the boy were wearing life jackets at the time of the drowning.
Marshall said the river is especially busy this time of year, with kids and families canoeing and swimming, even though he said swimming isn’t condoned.
“Life is extremely fragile — and not to take chances or at least try to have some control of the chances that you take,” he said.
Monday was the last day of business for Mad River Adventures, an aquatic sport rental service. They posted to their Facebook page thanking their customers who tried to help during the incident.
Persinger was not a customer of Mad River Adventures.
The statement reads in part, “(Monday’s) unfortunate moment in time on the river is not the way we want to remember the end of our season. The Mad River can never be an entity to be taken lightly.” The statement continues by saying, “All our thoughts and prayers are going out to the family involved with (Monday’s) tragic event. Please keep this family in your thoughts, as well.”
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