Injured man rescued after illegal jump into Six Mile Creek near Second Dam

June 16, 2014

The Ithaca Fire Department says a man who injured himself jumping into the City of Ithaca's water supply reservoir on Six Mile Creek was rescued by IFD and Bangs Ambulance personnel after he couldn't make it back out of the gorge area, where swimming is prohibited.

Bangs Ambulance personnel used a "gator" ATV to retrieve an injured man in Six Mile Creek. Photo courtesy of IFD.Bangs Ambulance personnel used a "gator" ATV to retrieve an injured man in Six Mile Creek. Photo courtesy of IFD.Tompkins County Dispatch received a 911 call at about 6:40pm reporting a man with an arm injury in the water east of Second Dam, about a mile east of Giles Street, and dispatched IFD's rescue squad and Bangs Ambulance to the scene. Rescuers found the man unable to help himself back out to the road, and used the Bangs Ambulance all-terrain vehicle, or "gator," to retrieve him from the steep ravine and transport him to a waiting ambulance.

"The gator meant that we could get in to this injured man and get him back out to the waiting ambulance much more quickly," says George Tamborelle, a paramedic with Bangs Ambulance and chief of the Cayuga Heights Fire Department. "What would have been a two-hour process, at least four firefighters carrying gear in on the trails and back out with the victim, was under thirty minutes tonight," thanks to the ATV added to the Bangs fleet last year. "These trails are designed for hiking, and going off the trails towards the reservoir makes it harder to get rescue personnel and equipment in there," he adds.

Swimmers jumping off a bunker into the reservoir above Second Dam. 14850 file photo.Swimmers jumping off a bunker into the reservoir above Second Dam. 14850 file photo.Ithaca Fire Department officials used the occasion to remind area residents that people must "stay on approved trails and obey posted warning signs," and add that "failure to do so is unlawful and puts themselves and rescuers in danger." Swimmers jumping into the reservoir are jumping near Second Dam, a concrete wall with a thirty-foot waterfall drop to the creek below. The reservoir is part of the City of Ithaca's water system, and signs at all of the gates and trail entrances to the area warn that swimming, rock climbing, and a variety of other activities are prohibited in the City watershed.

Tamborelle says the injured man got hurt "being somewhere he wasn't supposed to be, doing something he wasn't supposed to do. I understand the police don't have the resources to patrol all the dangerous swimming areas that people keep using, no matter what warnings, no matter what incidents we see," Tamborelle says. "There were at least ten people down there today, and several of them were even still jumping off the bunker into the water while we were in there rescuing this guy."

Legal swimming is available in such natural areas as Buttermilk Falls State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, and Taughannnock Falls State Park, but swimmers venturing into prohibited areas are too often seriously injured or killed due to falls or unexpectedly strong currents. "This one injured swimmer tied up two fire engines, an ambulance, the duty chief, and three sheriff's deputies," says Tamborelle. "It ties up resources that can make it difficult to respond if there's another call."

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