First Responders, River Guides Talk Pulling Rafters from Lehigh River

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LEHIGHTON, Pa. -- The girls on the bus were in good spirits despite a dramatic night on the Lehigh River.

More than 200 rafters belonging to a church group from New York State took off on a rafting trip with Whitewater Rafting Adventures.

A few of the rafts got caught up, and 50 girls needed to be pulled from their boats and the water.

"Several made it successfully and without incident, but the boats that went by got separated from the group. We had guides go with them and a majority of those rafts were guided to a secondary shore safely, but in between that, there were two locations where a few rafts got stuck," said Steven Bretzik, Whitewater Rafting Adventures.

All of the girls made it out safely.  Only one was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation.

Steven Bretzik, general manager at Whitewater Rafting Adventures, says water conditions were normal when the trip started on Monday around 3 p.m. in Jim Thorpe.

Halfway through the four-mile ride, the water picked up and rescue crews were called in.

"With a few boats being stuck, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary for us, but with the rain that was occurring and the water was getting quicker, we were doing what we do with our guides that are trained to do," said Bretzik.

Members of the rafting company and the Lehighton fire chief says the rescue itself was quick, but because the group was in different spots along the river, making sure everyone made it out took some time.

That's why there were initial concerns 150 people could be unaccounted for.

Different departments had to make sure that each person was physically accounted for.

"The big thing is that it was a logistics nightmare in trying to get the accountability of all the people who were on the trip and the widespread of the location where people were taken  out at that we did a count for everyone before we broke down operation," said Chief Patrick Mriss, Lehighton Fire Department.

The group left Carbon County late Monday night after the Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania State Police finished their investigation.


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