Teamwork helps rescue boaters

Published 12:17 pm Friday, June 22, 2012

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT are Sgt. Jason Williams, Decatur-Grady E911 dispatcher Michelle Barwick and Ed Boyd, a friend of Williams who works with the local Department of Family and Children Services office.

Teamwork between a Sheriff’s deputy, an E911 dispatcher and a citizen helped save two south Georgia men from what could have been a bad situation on a local lake last week.

At about 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, Decatur-Grady E911 received a call that two men fishing in the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area in southern Decatur County were in distress.

The two men, Eric Copeland of Quitman, Ga., and his friend Terry L. Brown, were in a 15-foot, fiberglass bass boat on North Silver Lake when they noticed their boat was filling up with water and starting to sink. Even worse, neither man knew how to swim.

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“They were going through with their motor running and hit a stump that was hidden underwater,” said Sgt. Jason Williams, a Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy who responded to the call that day. “The collision opened up an eight-inch hole in the boat near the live well.”

As Sgt. Williams headed toward Silver Lake, which is located in southern Decatur County in the Bethany community, E911 dispatcher Michelle Barwick stayed on the phone with the men, partly to keep them as calm as possible, and also to try and pinpoint exactly where they were.

Ed Boyd, an employee of the Decatur County Family and Children Services office, had been fishing off Spring Creek in a church fishing tournament on Saturday morning. On his way down to Silver Lake, Sgt. Williams recognized Boyd’s truck and boat trailer and flagged him down.

“I told him what the situation was and asked him if he would go down there with me and help,” Williams recalled.

By the time Williams and Boyd arrived at Silver Lake, Barwick used her knowledge of the area to determine where the distressed boaters were, which led to a quick rescue.

“We put Ed’s boat out on the water and began to troll over to them,” Williams said. “Just as soon as the two men had got in the boat, their boat sank and rolled over onto its side. We did manage to save some of their fishing gear.”

The two men thanked Williams and Boyd for their help and returned home later that day. Williams said he heard that the men came back sometime later that weekend in another boat, to pull up the boat that had sunk.

“The incident was definitely an example of how our local emergency responders and citizens can work together to save someone in trouble,” Sheriff Wiley Griffin said. “I’m proud of the good effort that Sgt. Williams, Ed and Michelle gave to help those men out.”