After losing a victim to flood waters, one firefighter invents a device to help in high risk water rescues

Local News

BELVIDERE (WTVO) – Water rescues are all too common for fire fighters, but not all departments are equipped to help someone in fast moving waters. After a traumatic night on the job, one volunteer fire fighter invented a device called Last Chance to give rescuers an edge over dangerous currents. Belvidere fire will be the first in the Stateline to add the device to their tool box, in hopes of cutting crucial seconds off of rescue times.

“Brian waited close to an hour holding on to that guardrail for a rescue and water was cold, the night was cold it was December 26th and he finally just let go, he couldn’t hold on any longer. His last two words were help me.” Said Tom McKellips, manager of Global Recuse Systems. A nonprofit company that makes the lifesaving device.

That help is now here, in the form of this buoy designed for water rescues.

“The very next day we got to the drawing board and started figuring out a way to fill that gap. How do we rescue somebody trapped in the water when you don’t have a water team available who can do all these fancy things that need to be done to do the rescue. How can you do it with just one or two people?” Asked McKellips.

For the last 35 years Tom has volunteered as a firefighter. After witnessing the death of a local Missouri man, where he worked, he wanted to make sure he and other firefighters never have to see what he did that fateful day.

“Right now what we have are throw bags which are 50 feet throwbags. So this is up to 250 feet of reach which is about the distance of the Kishwaukee at the widest point in our area.” Said Dan Drall one of Belvidere’s Firefighter & Paramedic.

Water rescues are common on this river. Now Belvidere’s Fire Department is the first across the Stateline to receive this $12,000 air-powered equipment for free.

“That helps us if say on the other side of the river, if we’re not able to utilize that shore, we can stay on this side and launch from a safer distance on a safer side.” Said Drall.

Tom explains how it works.

“We power it by air only and we use the air out of a firefighter airpack to actually charge it. The firefighter will charge it to a specific pressure depending on what they need to do and set it at a specific angle. Then they’re going to aim it and launch it to a victim.”

Right now the push is to give more of these out to rural units where there are more drownings from flash flood.

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