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New river rescue boat improves Carter County Rescue Squad efficiency

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CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - Already this year, the Carter County Rescue Squad has saved five people from fast moving water. A new tool is proving wonders helping with the rescues.

News 5's Kristi O'Connor finds out how they have gone from paddles to motor power. Summer is nearly here and that means more and more people will be out on the Watauga River. But just as quickly as the fun begins, danger lurks. Cold water, changing water levels and downed trees and debris is what typically gets people into trouble. Even worse is when they go unprepared, with no life jacket or just a blow-up float. With about 80 percent of the water rescues happening on the Watauga River, the Carter County Rescue Squad invested in a new River Jet Pro Boat. Before, they relied on inflatable rescue rafts, which have no motor. With only a paddle for power, they always had to enter the river above the victim so they would not be paddling against the current. "This is one of the locations that we would have difficulty with in a rescue raft because if we weren't lined up exactly on where the patient was we could flow past him in the current and then have to fight the current to get back to the stream to get to the patient," Rescue Team Leader James Heaton said. Now they can power right up to the victim, from up or downstream. They say the river rescue boat can travel in three inch deep water. Crews say they often have to get to shallow locations because people get trapped or stranded there. "People get stranded on islands or debris in the middle of the river and they can't actually walk because they're surrounded by deep water," Heaton said.

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