Three men from the St. Louis area were rescued Saturday morning amid rising flood waters on the Big Piney River near Houston.

Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said several deputies responded at about 9:30 a.m. after a call was received about the men being threatened by rapidly rising water during heavy rainfall.

Sigman said a ping of one of the men’s cellular phones was integral in locating the men.

“The ping was spot on,” Sigman said. “Sometimes a ping will send us pretty far from where we need to be, but this time it gave us a very accurate location and we were able to see them quickly.”

The men (ages, 51, 47 and 23) were precariously perched on a small island in the middle of the fast moving river. They had put in and around Dogs Bluff the previous evening and set up camp, but Sigman said they had moved their camping gear several times in an effort to evade rising water.

Personnel with the Houston Rural Fire Department also responded, and a Missouri State Highway Patrol boat was brought in from Shannon County and put in at the Mineral Springs access north of Houston. The men were located near Horseshoe Bend, only about a 1/4-mile from the access, Sigman said.

“They were pretty fortunate that little island held up for them,” he said.

One of the men, Jimmie Lee Ridge, of Ladue, said the responders’ actions were crucial.

“Kudos to the sheriff for getting the state patrol out there and getting us as quickly as they did,” Ridge said. “All the response people did a fantastic job. If they hadn’t, we would have been hurt for sure.”

Leaving the flood zone

A Missouri State Highway Patrol pickup pulls an MSHP johnboat loaded with three rescued men from the Big Piney River during a multi-agency operation last weekend.

The Missouri Department of Conservation called in a raft from West Plains, but the rescue operation was over before it arrived. Sigman said the time it takes for other agency’s boats to arrive at rescue scenes in Texas County is often as much as an hour or two. He said he would this week be looking into getting a rescue boat for his department.

“There have been so many times we have needed one,” Sigman said. “We haven’t had a problem yet because of the long waiting periods, but it could easily happen. When water is rising as fast as it sometimes does, every minute counts.”

After being pulled from the river, the trio was transported to the Lazy L Motel.

“Kudos to the people of Houston,” Ridge said. “They really helped us out.”

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply