Irmo, SC (Paul Kirby) - On March 31, 2019, a family’s kayaking trip down the Lower Saluda River close to Irmo nearly ended in tragedy. The family, out for an enjoyable afternoon on the river,will never forget how quickly things went wrong.
They were close to the bank when their kayak became entangled in tree branches and overturned. An adult and two children were dumped into the cold, fast water of the river. Swift Water Rescue Teams from both the Irmo Fire District and the Lexington County Fire Service were dispatched. Lexington County EMS also responded,prepared for the worst.
Fortunately for everyone, Mike Hutto was fishing from his kayak nearby. He saw the tragic turn of events and the trio in distress. With little regard for his own safety, he maneuvered his kayak toward the family, trying to get them out the water. In the process, Hutto’s kayak overturned.
Now in the river himself, Hutto grabbed the children and swam them to shore. Then, he swam back out and assisted the adult still struggling. Together, they were able to make it back to the bank and out of the cold water. There along the river’s edge, the family was reunited, a bit cold and wet, but alive.
According to Chief Brian Haley, spokesman for the Irmo Fire District, swift water rescues are among the most challenging incidents they have. Water coming from the depths of Lake Murray is very cold; even on the hottest summer day, the water temperature is seldom above 60 degrees. It can also move very fast. Measured in cubic feet per second (cfs.), on a quiet day, 600 cfs. may be flowing through the shoals. When Dominion is flowing water to lower lake levels or produce electricity, it can easily flow above 18,000 cfs. On the best day, this frigid, fast water doesn’t support human life very long.
It’s also difficult to pinpoint the location of victims who are in the water. The emergency is a moving target as the people in distress are swept along by the swift water. According to the chief, any rescue on the river is a race against the clock.
Haley said that Hutto’s decisive action that day undoubtedly saved lives. At the same time, he placed his own life at risk to help others. Without his quick intervention, a family could easily be grieving the lost, not celebrating a second chance. According to Chief Haley, what Hutto did that day reflects greatly on his character and values.
On Tuesday evening, the Irmo Fire District presented Mike Hutto with their Noble Service Award. During the presentation, Hutto’s heroism and selfless actions were recognized. Haley said that on behalf of the IFD and all the public safety agencies involved, the men and women of the District were proud to present Hutto with the Irmo Fire District’s Noble Service Award.