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Video: Alabama rescue squad member killed after rescue boats flip at dam during river search


We are learning more about Vicky Ryan the member of Alabama’s Etowah County Rescue Squad killed when two rescue boats went over a dam during a search operation. It turns out Ryan’s husband was on the boat with her.


“All I heard was there was a boat accident and Vicky didn’t make it,” said Pastor Michael Hengle.  That’s how the Pastor of Parkway Community Church in Gadsden said he heard about one of his parishoners death. 

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Hengle said he immediately went to see the family he’s ministered for years.  “When I sat down with Houston, I looked at him and I could tell he was in shock.”  Houston is Vicky’s husband, Pastor Hengle said he was in the boat with his wife Saturday.  “He was taken to the hospital and had a cut on his head and bruises on his side. 

Pastor Hengle said Vicky was always helping others, “she is the most giving person I have ever seen in my life. Her whole life was just to give to others, to make others happier.”

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Donna Thorton, Gadsden Times:

(Gadsden Assistant Fire Chief Robert) Maltbie said two kayakers were in the water near a low dam about 11:07 a.m. when one was swept out of his kayak. The other called for help.

He said the person was presumed drowned and responders continued their search. Maltbie said the Etowah County Rescue Squad was conducting dragging operations late Saturday afternoon when one of its flat-bottom boats got too close to the dam and the turbulent water swamped it, throwing the squad members into the water.

A second squad boat moved in to try to get the members and it, too, capsized.

“We had nine people in the water,” Maltbie said. Four went to local hospitals, he said, and where Ryan later died. 


A member of Alabama’s Etowah County Rescue Squad was killed during a search late yesterday (Saturday) morning for a missing kayaker in Big Wills Creek in Gadsden. The member has been identified as 46-year-old Vicky Ryan.

Ryan died and three others were injured after their two rescue boats went over a dam and capsized. The accident happened while a reporter from WCFT-TV was interviewing Etowah County Rescue Squad Captain Mike Bettis and they suddenly heard screaming. The video is below.

ABC 33/40 – Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Click here if video above fails to play

Etowah County Rescue Squad web page

Etowah County Rescue Squad Facebook page

From Billy Goldfeder via The Secret List:

A 25-year-old man was out kayaking with family members about 1107 hours yesterday (Saturday) in Big Wills Creek when he was swept into the water. The man went missing near an old low head dam that was once used to pump water into the Gulf States steel mill nearby.

The Etowah County Rescue Squad began a search, and employed two rescue boats.

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One of the boats got too close to the dam and was swept over the side. The second boat soon followed and nine Rescue Squad workers were cast into the creek. Members of the Gadsden Fire Department and the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office assisted in rescue efforts.

One other worker was taken to Riverview, and two more to Gadsden Regional Medical Center. Fire medics have still not located the missing kayaker. Members will maintain a presence in the area overnight and resume searching tomorrow, but will not attempt any more recovery efforts tonight.

Water levels were already high at the creek because of spring rains, which also made the current especially dangerous.

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