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Campers rescued from Piney Creek

  • The Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve.

    The Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve.
    Herald Tribune File Photo

By Staff Report
updated: 5/24/2017 9:55 AM

Five people were rescued from flash flooding at the Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve on May 20.

The seven-member group, camping illegally at the preserve, became stranded when heavy thunderstorms flooded the creek.

"They hiked in about a mile and a half and set up along the creek," said Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert, whose agency was paged for mutual aid on the incident with the Campbell Hill Fire Department. "We got that downpour and from what I got from one of the campers is they got washed out of their tent - they had an air mattress - and then downstream."

Bert said two of the campers were able to get across the swollen creek to their car, while the remaining five were trapped on the other side.

"The creek was between us and them and was about 30 feet across and raging hard," he said. "About four or five feet deep and there wasn't much we could do."

Bert said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police officers were able to get around the creek and walk the stranded campers out from the other side.

"They had no shoes, all their stuff was in bags and washed down the creek," Bert said. "They were able to find one bag with a set of keys to one of the vehicles."

Bert noted the remoteness of the area made communications difficult.

"When you get down there, there's no cell phone signal and we switched our radios to Fire Ground Red, which is radio-to-radio with a range of about a mile," he said.

According to IDNR Conservation Police Sgt. Eric Manker, the group consisted of one female and six males from Benton, McLeansboro and Johnston City areas.

All were cited for camping in a non-designated camping area.

"One of them went over the waterfall in a tent, I would say they were pretty lucky," Manker said. "All refused medical treatment at the scene."

Ed Cross, spokesman with the IDNR, told the Herald Tribune the campers are 26-year-old Gunner Williams (of Benton), 19-year-old Victoria Baker (of McLeansboro), 23-year-old Eeremiah Emory (of Benton), 23-year-old Ryan Rohlen-Koerner (of Johnston City), 20-year-old Zachary White (of Benton), 21-year-old Jacob Layne (of Johnston City) and an unnamed 17-year-old female.

The Campbell Hill Fire Department was paged out around 7:43 a.m., with the CFD getting the call 10 minutes later.

All fire units were clear of the scene by 11:30 a.m.

"It all went well," Bert said. "It could have gone a lot worse."

No names have yet been released.

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