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Water tour operators help Rock Hill firefighters rescue kayakers from Catawba River

Rock Hill firefighters after a rescue of four people Sunday on the Catawba River.
Rock Hill firefighters after a rescue of four people Sunday on the Catawba River. Rock Hill Fire Department

Firefighters in Rock Hill rescued four kayakers from the Catawba River over the weekend, with an assist from a water tour operator after the fire department boat’s motor conked out.

Crews responded after 3:30 p.m. Sunday near River Park, where the four people who needed assistance were not able to get to shore, said Mark Simmons, Rock Hill Fire Department deputy chief. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters used a rescue boat to head toward the people and help them to safety. But during the rescue the fire department boat’s motor stopped working properly, Simmons said.

Brian Welsh, owner of Kayaking 4 H20 river recreation company and a water rescue veteran, had heard the emergency radio communications about the incident and responded with roommate Kevin Cunningham aboard a personal watercraft. Welsh tied his watercraft to the fire department boat and hauled the boat to the stranded people.

“Those two men did a great thing when the motor stopped working and were very helpful,” Simmons said.

The firefighters assisted the stranded kayakers into the rescue boat and then Welsh towed everyone back to the shore where all were safe. Welsh said water safety always needs to be a priority for all people in the river and he was happy to help firefighters.

“It all turned out safe for everyone,” Welsh said.

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