OFD pulls 4 from swift water, retrieves body of boy

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, December 29, 2015


The Opp Fire Department helped rescue 10 people from flood waters in Coffee County over the holiday weekend, and recovered the body of one of the two victims who drowned after being swept away by rising waters.

Fire Chief Cory Spurlin said that the OFD responded to a water rescue on Christmas Eve on Coffee County Road 474 north of Kinston.

“Four occupants were removed from the vehicle sustaining no injuries,” Spurlin said. “Thanks to Kinston Police, Kinston CFD, ALEA and the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department.”


On Christmas Day, they were dispatched to Reese Avenue in Elba, where they rescued two occupants and their pets from a home.

On Friday, Spurlin said they also were dispatched to the northeast corner of Coffee County to County Road 107.

“It was another vehicle swept in the water, with six passengers in the vehicle,” he said. “My team rescued all but two out of the vehicle. There were two they could not find.”

Coffee County Chief Deputy Ronnie Whitworth told The Southeast Sun the group, traveling in a Ford F250, was not from the area. They went around a barricade, and the truck was swept away by rising waters.

Three adults were found clinging to tree branches, and Whitworth said one was clutching a 6-month-old baby.

Spurlin said Opp firefighters arrived at the scene and at 2:47 p.m.

By 3:03, he said, firefighters had the Covington County EMA rescue boat, which is housed in Opp, in the water.

“Within 15 minutes, we have saved four of them,” Spurlin said.

Rescue workers searched more than a day before they recovered the body of the first victim, a 5-year old boy, on Saturday. On Sunday, agencies in Coffee and Dale counties recovered a 22-year-old male’s body.

“All-in-all, our team rescued 10 people, some pets and had one recovery,” he said. “We were dispatched to seven calls, but not all required our equipment.”

The recovery effort, as well as finding the body of the child, has been hard on the firefighters, Spurlin said.

“It’s been emotional for us,” he said. “We ask for prayers for our guys, and for the family who lost two loved ones.”

Since the OFD took control of the Covington County EMA’s rescue boat, more than two years ago, Spurlin said this is the first time they have actually had to rescue.

“The county EMA allowed us to keep it here,” he said. “We staff it. This is the most activity we’ve had and the first time we’ve used it for an actual rescue. We’ve had some recovery work.”

Since Spurlin took the job as fire chief, he’s made an ample effort to reach out to other agencies in the area to provide brotherly assistance.

“Even Chief (Joel) Williams before me did this,” he said. “That’s what I try to explain to people – being a fire department is much more than just fighting fires. We run medical calls and scuba diving missions. It’s always been a passion of mine no matter the incident if someone needs our help to go out there and help. If we can help them gain some closure, we are happy to do it. I look at our patients – what if it was me or my family – I would want someone to help me.

“I want our department to treat our victims like we want to be treated,” he said.

Spurlin said the new four-wheel drive pickup truck the city council approved earlier this year, made at least one of the rescue missions possible.

“I just want to provide the service,” he said. “If something happens in Covington County, we want people to help us.”

Spurlin said he wanted to public to understand that when he sends his team to help others, that they don’t leave Opp uncovered.

Other agencies, such as the River Falls Fire Department stepped up and offered to help cover the area, as well.