CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A helicopter pilot and firefighters saved seven people from Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Sunday in three dramatic rescues on the Saco and Pemigewasset rivers in New Hampshire, which were swollen and raging from torrential rains.

Three young men and a woman had rented two canoes in North Conway, but they got only about one-third mile down the Saco when they capsized at about 1 p.m..

One man, Brad Heathcote, 18, of Lincoln, R.I., clung to one canoe as it was washed downstream and got out himself and called for help while the other three made it to a small island about 75 feet from shore, Fish and Game Lt. Robert Bryant said.

All four were wearing life vests, Bryant said.

Firefighters found the three, but the water was flowing so fast they did not think it safe to attempt a boat rescue, so copter pilot Steve Cheney landed on a sandbar by the island and ferried the three to safety, Bryant said.

The three are John Dyvala, 20, Jenna Trudee, 21, and Eric Forgett, 21, all of North Smithfield, R.I.

In North Woodstock, three teenage boys, who had been tubing down the Pemigewasset on Saturday, tried it again at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, but the river was much higher and faster after a night of rain, Fire Chief Bill Mellett said.

They lost their tubes about a half mile downstream and one clung to a branch in the middle of the river while the other two made it onto a small island in the river after going under two or three times, Mellett said.

“They were lucky enough to get up on that little island,” he said.

“The river was like Niagara Falls, all rapids. It’s the highest we’ve seen it in quite a while.”

Firefighters first tried to stretch an 85-foot-long ladder from their truck to the boys, but it was far short, so firefighters Mark Wiggett and Fred Englert tied ropes to their waists and made their way out, hanging onto a log part of the time, swimming and wading, Mellett said.

They reached the boys, strung more ropes across and managed to get the boys out safely.

Then about 30 minutes after returning to the firehouse, they got word three more boys had lost their tubes in almost the same spot.

The mother of one saw the first group on the river, but didn’t know about their trouble, so she let her kids go in, Mellett said.

Two of the boys managed to get to shore themselves, but the third was hanging precariously onto a rock in the middle of the river as water ran over it.

“He looked like he was going to wash away any minute,” Mellett said.

Firefighters couldn’t get a rope to him, so the ladder truck was called back, but it was about 10 feet short. However, a shorter ladder was braced against the longer ladder and the rock, and Lincoln Fire Chief Nate Haynes climbed down and helped the boy up the ladder, Mellett said.

“We don’t get into this type of thing very often, but they did all right,” Mellett said of the firefighters. “A good outcome.”

Mellett said the first three boys are all about 16, and two are from Weymouth, Mass., and one from Hanover, Mass.

He said the second group, all about 13, are from Stoneham, Mass.

None of their names was released.

In addition, the river flooded at least three campground and at least 30 travel travelers had to be pulled from a field where they had been parked for the motorsport park races in North Woodstock.

AP-ES-08-10-03 2128EDT



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