A couple days ago, I shared with you quite a rescue story on the Firehole River, a story that hasn't been otherwise reported out of the park office or in Yellowstone.
Another person who was there, Tom Hoyle, shared his version with me by email and gave me permission to post what he shared with me verbatim. Thanks, Tom!
Here it is:
I was also involved in the rescue at the Firehole River as was my son Jeff and son-in-law Rick Wenger. We were in the river at the bottom of the first set of cascades where the river sinks into the Firehole canyon. We were right next to the eddy at the bottom of the falls just getting out of the water when we see a blond haired boy pop up from the eddy and scramble out of the river. He was very concerned about losing his mothers shoes!!!. We realized in about two seconds that he came thru the cascading falls. I immediately ran up the hill slightly the boy concerned that someone might try to follow him. As I crested the hill and could see the river I saw two others people in the swift water. A man ans a teenage boy. Andrew, the boy, was at the brink of the falls in a sitting position facing downstream. I asked him if he was OK and he said he was fine. I them went a little upstream and asked the man (Andrew’s father) if he was OK and he said the “he couldn’t hold on much longer” At that point I ran halfway down the hill and yelled for my son and son-in-law to come quickly. The river was very shallow where the man was – about 12 to 18 inches but also very swift. At first we tried to pick up a long lodgepole pine pole but it wasn’t long enough. And the river was too swift to hold hands to form a human chain. Several others arrived to help. We asked for someone to call 911. I was just going to run to my car to get a rope when someone showed up with a long yellow tow strap. On the fourth attempt one of the young men was able to get the strap to the father in the water. We (probably 5 or more men) walked out in the water to get the father. I was first and grabbed his wrist but I also fell down in the swift moving water. We all pulled and got the father out of harm’s way in short order probably no longer than 10 minutes. He was is good shape and went to the small hill above the river where his son was perched in the rocks.
We then focused our attention on Andrew in the river. We talked to him and again he said that he was stable and had a good perch in the river with his feet and legs holding him there. Another person showed up with a small (3/8”) rope which was thrown upstream of Andrew and he got it on the first throw. We then had him tie it around his chest and secure it. At some point about this time another man showed up who identified himself as a rescue ranger at McKinley park. He tied the rope off to a long (60’) log that was by our feet parallel to the river and part in the water and the larger trunk out of the water. At this point we felt good the we had the 15 year old Andrew somewhat safe. A few on the bank above us were yelling at us to just pull him in. But with the angle that the rope was to the river as soon as we pulled he may have gone partially over the first falls. We let his father make the decision to wait for help to arrive. Rangers started to show up and prepare for the rescue. We asked for a life vest which we were able to slide down the rope attached to Andrew. Later we did the same thing with a ranger’s helmet. At this point we felt that we had a good backup plan to bring him to safety if he slipped into the river. We also suggested that the rangers set up a team downstream at the bottom of the cascade which I assume they did. As Robert said we waited for a very long time for the park rescue ranger to enter the water. As we talked to the rescue ranger his plan was to tie on to the boy and then cut our rope free and be pulled in by the upstream rangers on the end of the rope. As it turned out the water was too deep and too swift and the ranger started to slide into our rope. At that point the ranger grabbed the boy and started to head to the side of the river. I had earlier put on a life vest on and had swapped places with Robert and had a very good view of the rescue. I could see the rescue ranger with his arm around the boy. However the boy’s face was clearly visible to me under about a foot of water. We very quickly pulled the boy and ranger to the river's edge and got the boy safely on shore. When the ranger (this was a very strong guy) got out of the water he just sat on a log and was breathing heavily. Clearly this used a lot of energy. A few minutes later I looked at Andrew sitting on a log with a blanket over him shivering uncontrollably. This part of the Firehole River is quite warm but it still cools the body down.
A word about Robert. For most of the wait time he was first on the line and talking to Andrew and was able to keep focused for a long period. He did an outstanding job. I believe that he is a police officer
I was also happy to have my son Jeff and son-in-law Rick with me as they are very athletic and were a great help when needed. My grandson Bradley Wenger (7) was there but left the area with Jeff when the rangers cleared the rescue site of extra people.
The rescue ranger from McKinley was very professional and a perfect person to have assist. He made a lot of suggestions which most were accepted by the park rangers. He is the type of person that you would want to lead a crew if you were in trouble.
Another person in the water was a trauma nurse who did some mountain climbing. He provided good suggestions and support also. I believe it was his life jacket the we put on Andrew.
I’m not sure but I believe that 45 minutes was in waiting for the right diameter and length of rope to arrive. The Yellowstone team were well organized and very professional. The ranger doing the rescue was definitely the right man for the job, Smart, strong and able.
Andrew and his brother (who went down the falls) and family are from Iowa. Andrew was attending a rigours wrestling camp in Montana prior to there visit to Yellowstone.
My son Jeff talked to Andrew's brother that went through the cascade. He told my son Jeff that he almost gave up as he couldn't catch a breath and thought that he would sink to the bottom but just put in an extra effort. We were glad he did. It is one thing to help in a rescue and quite another to recover a body.
Yellowstone is a beautiful area but the rivers and hot pots and animals have to be respected.
The names and addresses of all people involved in the rescue were recorded by the park rangers
Tom Hoyle retired engineer (age 63), Richland, WA