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Teen tumbles into Gulf

By:  Star Beacon - Margie Trax Page

ASHTABULA — For the second time in two days, Ashtabula Fire Lt. Todd Wilms looked down the sheer side of the Ashtabula Gulf and prepared himself for the worst.

Wilms led Ashtabula firefighters down the steep side of the Gulf Wednesday evening to rescue a teen-ager who had fallen dozens of feet into the riverbed.

“The boy’s brother and friends saw him fall from the side of the gulf,” Wilms said. “He just slipped and tumbled down. The group dialed 911 and we responded within two minutes.”

The boy, who has not been identified, suffered severe injuries to his head, neck and body. His father arrived on the scene as firefighters worked to secure the boy to the rescue board, Wilms said.

“I couldn’t hear him at first,” Wilms said, “so I thought the worst. I just ran down the side (of the Gulf) because I wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive.”

Firefighters said the teen-age victim was in and out of consciousness throughout the ordeal. The rescue crew rigged a rope and pulley system to the base of the Spring Street Bridge to haul the boy to safety. He was taken to the Ashtabula County Medical Center by Community Care Ambulance, fire reports show.

Wilms said the rescue took 40 minutes and the six on-duty firefighters were clear of the scene within an hour.

“The rescue went really well — unbelievably well. I can’t believe how fast we got that kid out of there,” he said.

This was the Fire Department’s second response to the Ashtabula Gulf this week, as crews recovered the body of Sean Reichert, 32, of Bridgeview Manor, 4428 Collins Blvd., from the gulf Tuesday.

Ashtabula Fire Capt. Jeff Gianantonio said the firefighters train to use the rope rescue system to cut down on response time.

“This week, that practice paid off,” he said. “We train for situations just like this and we have to use this system too often.”

Gianantonio said Ashtabula area residents are used to going to the Gulf for everything from fishing to hiking to skiing.

“People are down there all the time,” he said. “There are pathways where people have gone up and down for years. But one little slip is all it takes for a disaster. The Gulf is not safe; the sides are just too steep. It is amazingly easy to fall and be seriously injured or even die down there.”

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