PORTLAND, Ore. — A family gathered for a reunion pulled eight Oregon children from a lake with a steep drop-off where two girls already had sunk to the muddy bottom, a fire official said.
The family pulled the children from danger by passing each one from person to person until they reached shore.
The dramatic rescue occurred Saturday after the children, none of whom could swim, entered Henry Hagg Lake, Gaston Fire Chief Roger Mesenbrink said Sunday at a news conference.
“I have been through every kind of rescue scenario you can probably dream,” Mesenbrink said. “Never have I seen this sort of outcome. A trained team would have done no better.”
The children, who range from 6 to 13, were taken by ambulance to hospitals with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries, The Oregonian reported .
Two of the girls were unconscious when members of the family pulled them from the lake bottom, the newspaper said.
Evan Gibson, a member of the family that rescued the children, said he looked up from washing his feet in the lake to see a small boy flailing his arms from the water
Gibson said he yelled, “‘He needs help!”’ as he sprinted into the water. Other family members followed, including three sisters and his nephew.
“We realized we had no idea how many were underwater,” Michelle Rushing said.
First, the mothers of two of the children were pulled from the lake. Like their kids, the mothers didn’t know how to swim, the fire chief said.
The rescuers then found the two girls on the lake bottom and passed them both back to shore.
Rescuer Lura Kirby was elated when the eyes of one girl began to flutter and she started coughing.
“I didn’t think they would wake,” Kirby said. “I think there were angels there.”
Law enforcement officials declined to identify the family of the rescued children, citing the family’s wish for privacy.
When Mesenbrink arrived, he found the Gibson family huddled with the rescued children, whose parents hugged them and repeatedly thanked the Gibsons between racking sobs.
“The kids are doing great, quite well,” Mesenbrink said. “I’m amazed.”