If anything good has come out of the tragic drownings in January, it might be increased awareness of funding for area rescue squads.
Marshall County received a grant from the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security for the purchase of a $62,000 rescue boat. Carl Curtner, rescue squad chief, said the boat will have an enclosed cabin, which will allow rescue workers to travel in inclement weather. "Since the rescue squad's formation, we've had a few boats," Curtner said. "This is the best boat that the rescue squad can have."
Curtner was heavily involved in the search for missing duck hunters Trevor Williams, Jacob Scott and McKenzie Stanley at Rocky Point on Kentucky Lake. The boys went missing on Jan. 10 after their boat capsized. Williams' body was recovered Jan. 11. Searchers found the bodies of Scott and Stanley on Feb. 24 using a towfish sonar unit. A fourth boater, Tyler Heathcott, was rescued a few hours after the mishap.
The incident illuminated the need for better rescue equipment locally and spotlighted the funding plights of rescue squads. Most squads receive little state funding and must rely on private donations and fundraisers. Curtner said Marshall County's squad continues to raise money to purchase a towfish sonar, the type of unit used by an Illinois National Resources boat that found Scott and Stanley. The unit costs $40,000. "It was an eye-awakener," Curtner said. "This is a statewide issue with the shortfall of funding."
The Marshall County Fiscal Court accepted the bid for the new boat on Tuesday. Curtner said it will take 10 weeks to build. "I would love to have it now, but I'll take it as soon as I can get it." Residents of Mayfield and Graves County rallied around the cause to raise money for rescue squads. The duck hunters were from Mayfield. Williams, Stanley and Heathcott attended Mayfield High School; Scott attended Graves County. "It's sad, but like all the families have said, 'We'll know the next time that it will be a little quicker,'" said April Warner, a member of Graves County's rescue squad and a volunteer firefighter.
A chili supper and concert helped raise money for Graves County to purchase a new rescue boat. Warner said the squad has used the boat to help with search and rescue efforts in Livingston County. "The community is waking up and realizing that even though we are a fire and rescue squad, we had a 30-plus year-old boat," Warner said. "Now we're able to go to other counties."
Warner said West Kentucky Construction Association also has called businesses to ask for donations to allow the squad to buy a towfish sonar for Graves County. Warner said the unit could be located in Graves County, centrally located in the region, and available to all area counties.
Lori Scott, mother of hunter Jacob Scott, said teens involved in "The Circle" raised money for sonar equipment. Calloway County Fire and Rescue opted to buy two side-scan sonars after the drownings, said Earl Hicks, rescue squad chief. "We had three drownings in three weeks," Hicks said. "We decided that we needed side scans more in this season."
Like Marshall County, Calloway County's rescue squad is called out to Kentucky Lake for rescues or drownings. Calloway's squad has five boats, stationed near the lake. "We're on the water quite a bit," Hicks said. "We can go a couple of years with no calls. Last month, we had three drownings in three weeks." Hicks said the sonar units helped speed up the recovery. Calloway County receives funding through a mail solicitation to residents. "We've had a busy year all around," Hicks said. "We've picked up a few more donations."