York Area United rescuers and others save 2 duck hunters from Codorus Creek

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
The Codorus Creek

Two York County duck hunters in their 70s became stuck in the Codorus Creek after their hip waders filled with water while they were retrieving a shot duck early Friday morning in Manchester Township, officials said.

Crews from York Area United Fire and Rescue, along with a Life Team Ambulance squad and Northern York County Regional police officers, were called to an area of the creek along Blackbridge Road, north of Route 30, about 7:15 a.m., according to Northern Regional Lt. Gregg Anderson.

Anderson said the hunters waded into the freezing-cold creek water to retrieve a duck they'd shot.

But both men's waders filled with water and they were unable to move or free themselves from their waders, the lieutenant said.

A passing bicyclist called 911 after hearing the men yelling for help, Anderson said.

YAUFR Battalion Chief Matt Arnold happened to be driving past the area and responded within 45 seconds, he said.

"They had been in the water for some time," Arnold said of the men — more than 20 minutes — and were standing in water that was a bit above their waists.

Hypothermia risk: "With water temperatures in the low 40s and air temperatures in the low 30s, hypothermia was a real risk," Arnold said, especially considering the men's ages.

YAUFR crews lobbed throw-ropes, which are weighted at one end, to the hunters to hang on to as other crew members positioned ladders for the men to grab on to, the battalion chief said.

Although the hunters were close to shore, the banks are steep at that spot and are currently very muddy, Arnold said.

Rescuers used ladders and ropes to create a makeshift pulley system, he said.

"They were not small people," Arnold said of the hunters. Plus, he said, crews had to contend with the weight of the water that filled the men's waders and the fact that they didn't have the best footing.

YAUFR crews and Northern Regional officers worked together to pull the men out, one at a time, he said.

Seven minutes: It took seven minutes to rescue the hunters from the time of crew members' initial contact with them, according to Arnold, and the men were conscious, alert and oriented.

"Our guys did a great job. They used all their water-rescue skills," he said, noting that it's unusual for them to get water-rescue calls in the winter.

Once the hunters were out of the water, rescuers stripped off their wet clothing then started taking off their own outer garments — jackets, hats and gloves — and putting them on the hunters to keep them warm until they could get them to ambulances, he said.

The ambulances had to stay far away because of muddy conditions, one about 150 feet, the other about 300 feet, according to the battalion chief.

The men were then transported to York Hospital to be checked out.

Testament to training: Arnold said he's proud his crew members were willing to give up their own clothing to help the men.

"As these things go, it was the best possible outcome for everybody," he said, and a testament to the rescuers' ongoing training.

A state Fish and Boat Commission officer also assisted at the scene.

Arnold said the bicyclist on the York County Heritage Rail Trail who heard the hunters calling for help likely saved them from a far worse fate.

Lt. Anderson said both men are properly licensed hunters.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.