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James Petersen
USGS Arkansas Water Science Center Technicians Rescue Man from Water
Caption Below
Quick actions from USGS Arkansas Water Science Center hydrologic technicians Bill Baldwin (left) and Kevin Davis saved a man's life.
GS hydrologic technicians/streamgagers Kevin Davis and Bill Baldwin didn't expect anything unusual on Dec. 6, 2005. However, their presence at a bridge crossing Bayou Bartholomew near McGehee, Ark., was critical to a man involved in a one-car accident at the bridge that day.

Davis and Baldwin were preparing to make a discharge measurement after they had completed checking the instrumentation at the streamgage. They did not realize how important routine safety procedures would be in the near future.

While standing near their truck, parked in a grassy area near the eastend of the Bayou Bartholomew bridge, Davis heard a noise behind him and turned just in time to see a car come around a corner and leave the pavement, narrowly missing the abutment at the east end of the bridge. The car then traveled down the bank of the stream and out of sight.

That's when Davis and Baldwin sprung into rescue mode, grabbing tools, lifejackets and phone numbers from the truck. Baldwin grabbed a folder containing a description of the Bayou Bartholomew site and job hazard analysis safety information, which included the telephone number of the local law enforcement office. He was able to call the number from his cellphone, and direct the dispatcher to the bridge.

When Davis reached the bank of the bayou, he called to the driver and determined that the man was alone and disoriented but in relatively good condition. Davis made his way out to the partially submerged vehicle and instructed the man to look away as he broke the window of the front door with the hammer. He pulled the man through the window opening. Baldwin entered the water to assist in pulling the driver to shore, where medical help was waiting.

Luck, two properly prepared streamgagers and the swift arrival of medical and law enforcement authorities averted a tragedy. The science took a back seat that day, but a data- collection trip probably saved a man's life.
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