Only on 10: Firefighter speaks about swamp rescue

Kingston firefighter Alex Smith

Darin Pierce and his 12-year-old son, Logan, were pulled from a swampy area of South Kingstown on Monday, 17 hours after they failed to return from a rafting trip.

But before they could be rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, they had to be found.

"Just kept pushing along the path they had made, and every once in a while I would stop and yell out to see if we could hear them," said Kingston firefighter Alex Smith.

Smith was one of three rescuers who eventually found the father and son. He said it was very difficult terrain.

"It was tough going. You'd take one step and you were ankle deep. Take another step, it was like soft snow, and all the way up to your waist," Smith said.

From where the Pierces abandoned their boat, they tried to walk east toward Ministerial Road on Route 110. They could actually hear traffic, but it was a lot farther away than they thought.

"By the power lines along Route 110, you could see the thick brush in there they had to go through. Very tough going through that," said Chief Robert Perry of the Union Fire District.

So thick rescuers weren't even sure they could get them out by helicopter.

"In preparation for the helicopter coming in, we kind of beat down the brush around it and opened the area up," Smith said.

"When you looked out of the helicopter, you could see the opening they made to drop the basket from the helicopter was really small compared to the rest of the swamp," Logan Pierce said.

Darin Pierce and Logan Pierce were found in reasonably good health but dehydrated. Logan was treated at a hospital and released. His father remains hospitalized.

Logan's mother, Christine Pierce, and his family were grateful to all who helped.

"I can't thank people enough for the work that they did. It was dangerous for some of them too," she said.

And the success of the rescue speaks volumes of a volunteer fire department.

"Without that collaboration, that drive to want to help people, (Monday) never would have been a success and would have turned out a lot differently," Smith said.

Perry said the Chipuxet River is too shallow for the raft the Pierces had. Usually, people use kayaks or canoes.