You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myDaytonDailyNews.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myDaytonDailyNews.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myDaytonDailyNews.com.

Hamilton firefighters reflect on Hurricane Matthew mission


A retired and current firefighter have returned to Hamilton with a sense of accomplishment and the ever-present sense of a call to duty after their six-day deployment with Ohio Task Force 1, prompted by Hurricane Matthew.

Lt. David Oakley, who has worked for the Hamilton Fire Department for 16 years, and Ray Smith, who retired in 2011 after a 31-year career with the department, were embedded with the 83-member task force that rescued dozens of residents and more than two dozen animals in the areas of Fayetteville and Lumberton, N.C.

Oakley and Smith recently talked with the Journal-News about their experience and said the images of people in rescue boats and on the backs of rescuers will stay with them forever.

“We rescued a family of four disabled people that had been trapped in their flooded home with water up to their chest for at least six hours,” Smith said. “We were going house-to-house, and those that never evacuated were glad to see us there. Some people didn’t want to leave, but we would come back and check on them, the water was higher, and they were ready to go then.”

Oakley said they rescued several elderly, pregnant and handicapped residents and some suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“They were confused when we were carrying them out into water and then to the rescue boat — but they mostly remained calm,” he said. “It was hard for them to understand what was going on.”

When they entered the flood waters surrounding one home, they found a man in his 50s, sitting on top of his recliner chair and waiting to be rescued.

“I got off the boat and was going to the house. There were appliances just floating in the river,” Oakley said. “I found him sitting on top of a recliner that was nearly submerged. … He couldn’t talk, but managed to alert us that his brother was in the back of the house.”

Unfortunately, Oakley said they didn’t find the man’s brother after searching the house, just a dog.

The storm killed 45 people in the United States with more than half of the victims being in North Carolina, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Oakley and Smith said the experience also delivered a strong message about poverty and other social issues.

Both men said it was tough to see so many poor families “lose everything” and be displaced.

“They just lost everything they had,” Smith said. “If you don’t have insurance it is going to be worse.”

Two Cincinnati firefighters — Mike Lutz and Andrew Herbert — were also part of the task force and rescued a family of four trapped in their flooded home for several hours.

“We swung around, trying to get through the current, and we see someone beating on the window of a house … We couldn’t go to where they were at because we would have been pinned against the house,” Lutz said.

Lutz and Herbert maneuvered a boat toward the rear of the house, where the water was moving slower. Herbert broke a window to get in. He found three people in their 20s and a woman in her 60s. They were cold and had been in the house for about seven hours. The older woman could not walk and the rescuers had to lift her through the window to get her in the boat.

“Those people were in a very bad situation that we helped them get away from,” Herbert said.

Lutz said it was a complicated rescue, his first swift-water rescue in a flooded environment.

“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “At least we were able to come down here and do what we’re supposed to do so it was nice,” he said.

FEMA initially assigned the task force and 10 other rescue groups to Lakeland, Fla. Reassignment orders sent the team to Columbia, S.C., to Savannah, Ga., then to Charlotte, N.C., and finally to Fayetteville and Lumberton.

“This is the most rewarding experience I have had personally since the World Trade Center and I know it’s impacted a lot of the other guys the same way,” task force leader Doug Cope said.

“Most of the hurricanes have been wide area searches on land because until just recently, we didn’t have watercraft in our system,” Cope said when asked what set this mission to the southeastern United States apart from others. “So they put a mechanism in place for us to get the watercraft to train on it and we proved that it worked.”

Staff writer Gabrielle Enright contributed to this report.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping now up to Gov. Kasich
Sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping now up to Gov. Kasich

For the third year in a row, Ohioans shopping for three days in August will likely get a “sales tax holiday” when purchasing clothing and school supplies. The Ohio House voted 90-2 in favor of Wednesday for Senate Bill 9, which establishes a tax holiday for Aug. 4 to Aug. 6. The Senate immediately agreed to House changes in the bill. Its...
Trenton woman charged after overdosing in McDonald’s parking lot
Trenton woman charged after overdosing in McDonald’s parking lot

A Trenton woman was charged with disorderly conduct after Middletown police found her passed out in a fast-food parking lot Monday afternoon. When police responded to the McDonald’s, 1301 S. Breiel Blvd., they found Cory Hurst, 26, passed out in a Lincoln Towne Car and a man was slapping her trying to wake her up, according to the police report...
Parents shut out of Middletown High School graduation
Parents shut out of Middletown High School graduation

Some parents were locked out of their child’s Middletown High School graduation Tuesday because someone let family members without tickets into a side door of the ceremony site, according to school officials, who issued an apology today. “Middletown High School wishes to apologize to anyone who had a ticket for graduation and was denied...
Lance Armstrong engaged to longtime girlfriend Anna Hansen
Lance Armstrong engaged to longtime girlfriend Anna Hansen

Former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong is getting married to longtime girlfriend Anna Hansen.   Armstrong, 45, popped the question Tuesday evening at Lake Austin. In a photo posted to Armstrong’s Instagram account, Hansen sits on his lap with a sparkling engagement ring on her finger while the sun sets in the background. The photo was...
Verdict in Fairfield teacher sex crime trial on hold
Verdict in Fairfield teacher sex crime trial on hold

A verdict in the trial of a Fairfield High School teacher facing sex charges involving a student won’t be known until next month. MORE: 1 charge dismissed against Fairfield teacher charged with sex crimes About 90 minutes of closing arguments were presented today in the trial of Tyler Conrad, 27, who is charged with sexual battery, a felony;...
More Stories