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Doctor saves child from flooded creek

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Bridge dumps man, child into Campbellsville flood waters

By Geoff Hamill

He says he didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done in his place, but then again, no one else was in Dr. David Tank’s place Friday evening.

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Tank, a local chiropractor who lives in Campbellsville, is being called a hero after saving the life of 9-year-old Ashley Smith of Campbellsville, along with his own life, after the two were swept more than 40 yards by raging flood waters near Campbellsville Youth Soccer Park Friday.

Tank’s son was at the park for soccer practice, but heavy rains had forced practice to be delayed. With those rains came flash flooding, and Tank, along with others at the field, went to take a closer look at the water creeping out of the banks of Pitman Creek near the park.

Smith was standing on a walk bridge across Pitman Creek, and her mother was standing on the bank. While Tank and Smith were standing on the bridge, he said he noticed a piece of wood in the water, and he watched it float down the creek toward him. Suddenly, he said the wood flew out of the water, and was a much larger piece than he had thought. The wood hit the bridge, knocking Tank and Smith into the water.

“The whole time, standing there on the bridge, I never saw any debris,” Tank recalled. “Then I saw a piece of wood that looked like it was about a foot or foot and a half long. I turned to watch it, and lost track of it in the water. Then it came back out of the water and just launched out of the water and hit the bridge right at the base of the walkway. The next thing I knew, we were in the water.”

One witness of the events, Jo McDonald, said she saw the wood hit the bridge, and then saw Tank and Smith go into the water.

“The bridge just tumbled and Ashley and Dr. Tank went in the water,” McDonald said. “Luckily, the bridge snagged on some branches and limbs, stopping it from floating further down river.”

Bill Bemis, Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue Special Operations team leader, said he is certain Tank’s actions saved Smith’s life.

“I’ve seen some pretty big situations, and there’s no doubt in my mind that if it hadn’t been for Dr. Tank, this little girl would have died,” Bemis said.

Bemis added that even a trained rescuer could have lost their life in the situation. Still, he said Smith and Tank were fine after the incident.

“Outside of being wet and scared, they were OK,” Bemis added.

While Tank was humble, and didn’t consider himself a hero, he looked back on the situation as any parent would.

“You don’t feel like you’re a hero, but I guess if it was my son and somebody saved him, I would definitely think they were a hero for saving my son,” Tank said.

He may not like the attention, but McDonald said there is no doubt in her mind that Tank’s actions saved Smith’s life.

“He kept his head and saved that child’s life,” McDonald added.

Smith’s parents are Mike and Susan Smith of Campbellsville. Susan said Ashley was fine, with the exception of a few scratches, and was back in school Monday.

“It was just a miracle from God,” Susan Smith added.

For the complete story, see this week's Springfield Sun!