On Sunday evening at approximately 5:38 p.m., Cleburne County Deputy Eric Jay Moore was dispatched to Dam Site Day Use at the cliff area regarding a possible drowning. Moore was in the area and responded along with two park rangers. He arrived on scene and learned that Michael James Phillips, age 19 had been swimming across from the bluffs and was on his way back and went under the water.
There were several individuals that witnessed the event and called for help. One witnesses mother told The Sun Times that her son and several individuals were attempting to form a human chain to try and find him but were told to get out of the water.
Search and Rescue crew with the Heber Springs Fire Department located Phillips with two search divers. Search and Rescue personnel began CPR at 6:10 p.m. and rushed him to Baptist Health Medical Center in Heber Springs.
According to medical staff they did get a weak pulse back and his heart was beating but he was still unconscious. He was then medflighted to Baptist Health in Little Rock.
At press time his condition remains unknown.
Cleburne County Search and Rescue, the Sheriff's office, Pine Snag, Wilburn, The Corps, Heber Fire and Northstar responded to the call.
On Monday night around 10:00 p.m. a call went out for Search and Rescue in regards to four missing kayaks and a missing canoe. Details were unavailable at press time
Editor's note: This is a reprint from a story on water safety published originally on July 26, 2017. Now that we are beginning the summer season it's time for rethinking of some safety measures to prevent more of the same. Jonathan Coats of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says that one of the best tips for water enthusiasts is to learn your body of water, before you go out to spend the day in it. With today’s technology one can go to Google Earth and find the body of water and you can see how it flows. The Corps of Engineers also has an app that tells you when the generators are running and this can give an idea of what the future days will be. Bull Shoals and Norfolk also run on the same principal.
“On the river, kayaking with two generators going is not a good idea, unless you are an expert kayaker. People don’t realize that docks don’t move, they have cables underneath that you can get hung in and drown.” said Coats. He went on to say that they have performed from 20 to 30 calls for service on the river, most are not life-threatening, but are due to poor planning. One rescue they seem to do often is when fishermen hear the horns and go to the opposite side from where their vehicle is and they don’t realize they can’t just cross back over to their vehicle easily.
Coats said you can’t always depend on hearing the horns sounding on the generators because some areas you won’t hear them, such as Pangburn and Lobos. People also should understand that bodies of water react differently. At Greers Ferry Lake the water can be choppy from boats on the lake. The river, however, has a current and that can be affected by many things, including the generators.
One of the key things that Coats and Sheriff Chris Brown said is that people should have a float plan if they are planning an all day or longer trip. Rivers are ever-changing systems with inherent dangers, according to the AGFC website which also gives these safety tips:
Never paddle alone, always file a float plan-tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return, check weather forecasts, carry a map of the stream so you can find your location at any time, carry a hand-held GPS unit; it will help you pinpoint your position and how to get back to a launch site, wear protective footgear and carry drinking water, sunscreen and insect repellent, plan your trip so that your paddling skills are equal to the water conditions.
Brown went on to say that having a personal flotation device as well as proper supplies for the activities you are planning. Plan your trip so that you return before dark.
“Wear a life jacket, but know that you can still drown while wearing a life jacket.” said Brown. He recommends having a kit with the following items in it:
Basic First Aid kit, a cutting tool, paracord (at least 50 feet), flashlight, snacks, water, emergency blanket and a signal device (such as a whistle). Coats agrees and said in safety remember three of anything (three whistles, three shouts) means distress and whistle back twice or shout twice to acknowledge you have heard someone’s distress signal.
When boating on the lake remember to be courteous and know that when traveling within 100 feet of another vessel or of a bridge, dock or swimming area, you must travel at no wake speed. If you see someone violating this rule write their boat description and AR numbers down and turn into the AGFC.
Remember the AGFC are the state water patrol and the first defense for things that occur on the lake. They generally have at least two or three patrols on the water.
Brown and Coats said to enjoy the water and be safe.