Boy, 5, rescued from Catawba River in Chester Co., jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 22, 2014 

Dennis Dixon of Lancaster discusses the hardest decision he's ever had to make - to leave his young son and their dog stranded along the Catawba River in Chester County while he went in search of help.


— A 5-year-old boy and his pet dog were rescued from the Catawba River near the Nitrolee dam in Chester County Wednesday night after officials launched a nearly two-hour search when the water's currents swept them away, emergency officials said.

Officials say the boy, his dog and a man walked along the dam's spillway, used to control water levels, when dam operators released water pressure from the dam, causing the current to pick up and the water levels to rise. The boy, his dog and the man were swept away.

About 60 emergency personnel from Lancaster, Chester and Fairfield counties swarmed the scene for the two-hour water rescue, said Eddie Murphy, director of Chester County Emergency Management.

Rescuers managed to find the man, 25, "fairly quickly" and took him to Springs Memorial Hospital, said Stephen Blackwelder, Lancaster County fire marshal.

"The 5-year-old child took a little longer to find," he said.

Paramedics reported that the boy had been hanging onto a tree while stranded on a rock.

Murphy said crews used thermal imaging equipment to track the boy's body heat and fish him out of the water sometime before 7 p.m.

He has been airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Murphy said the boy was shaking and cold when he was rescued, but was able to communicate with some of his rescuers.

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