August 5, 2013
Two sisters from Wamego are safe after being caught in the Kansas River’s powerful current Sunday.
The Wamego Police Department was notified about a 911 call from a home in the 200 block of Pine Street regarding a child stuck in the river.
Officers found nine-year-old Kayla Hardie holding onto a branch, about 20 feet in the water. Her sister, 17-year-old Aerial Hardie, had also been stuck in the river but managed to make it to shore and get help.
Michael Connolly, a man who was visiting his daughter nearby, rushed to help the young girls as his wife called 911. He got in the water and tried throwing a rope to Kayla. Wamego PD Officers Eric Powell and Derek Gray joined in the rescue effort- the entire thing captured on a small camera attached to the front of Powell's uniform.
After a failed attempted to get a flotation device out to her, Officer Gray jumped in the water and swam to Kayla Hardie’s aid, fearing for her safety. Other officers and Michael Connolly were able to get a flotation device out to them and they were pulled to safety.
Police say the girls were sitting next to the Kansas River about a mile west of where Kayla was rescued.
Kayla fell into the river and was quickly swept down river by high water and rapid currents.
"They were sitting with their feet in the water and the current sucked the little nine-year-old girl into the water. The 17-year-old sister jumped into the river to help her sister out. The water sucked them out to the middle of the river," explained Wamego Police Chief Mike Baker.
The girls floated down river until they were able to grab onto a log by the K-99 Bridge. With the current sucking them under the log and water coming over their heads, the sisters feared they were going to drown so they let go of the log and continued floating down the river.
Aerial Hardie was able to get to shore and told her sister to hold on to tree branch while she ran to a nearby house for help. The girls estimate they were in the water for an hour and a half.
Chief Baker commended those involved in the rescue. It took them only four minutes to get Kayla out of the water.
"It was potentially a very dangerous situation. They acted fast. I’m very proud of them," Baker said.
He also issued a warning: "You never want to get into high waters. With all of the rain we’ve had here lately, the water is moving very fast. If you don’t have the proper equipment or training to be in the water, don’t go in the water, don’t go in the Kansas River because things like this could happen and you could easily drown with the way the conditions are right now."
Kayla and Aerial Hardie were not injured.
"We're very thankful for everything everyone did to get the girls out," their father told WIBW. "We're so grateful."