What started as a normal trip to take his stepdaughter to a friend’s house turned into much more for John Clark.
Clark, 47, of Bardstown, came to Washington County Friday evening to drop his daughter at a friend’s home off Valley Hill Road. As they made their way down the road, they crossed the little concrete bridge, which has no rails, and went on across. There was some water on the bridge, but not much, so he didn’t think twice about it since the rain had stopped falling by this time. On his way back, Clark decided to cross the bridge, even though he could tell the water had risen since he had gone across earlier.
“There was maybe an inch or two of water on the bridge when I took her to her friend’s house, but you could still see the concrete. I didn’t think it was too bad,” Clark said. “When I came back through, I could tell the water had come up some, but I didn’t think it could have possibly come up too much during that time.”
He was wrong. The water had risen, and enough so that it had the strength to wash his truck off the bridge into Cartwright Creek and downstream more than a quarter of a mile.
“I knew I was in trouble as soon as it pushed me off the bridge,” he said. “I got my cell phone and called my fiancé to tell her exactly where I was, and she called 911. She gave the state police my cell phone number and they called me back. I floated quite a ways down the creek before my truck finally found a resting spot.”
The truck stopped drifting, but Clark was by no means out of danger. He was in the truck, and the water was rising while the truck continued to stay above water for the time being. He had his stepdaughter’s puppy in the truck with him, and it jumped into his lap as the water came into the cab of the truck. Clark made no secret of the fact that he was scared.
“Well, yes, I was scared, but I was glad the truck didn’t sink real quick. It gave me time to think about what I needed to do,” Clark said. “The water started coming in the truck, and when it was getting full of water, I had to get out. I sat on the door and climbed onto the roof, then stood on a toolbox in the back of the truck. It finally quit floating, and the whole truck was under water.”
Clark said the truck was facing upstream, so the cab was keeping debris from pushing him off, and made it easier for him to hang on to the puppy and the truck.
“I knew better than to jump in the water. It was rolling pretty good. There was a lot of debris, and I didn’t know how deep it was, so I waited,” Clark said. “I was standing on the toolbox in the back of the truck, and the water was up to my pants pockets. It was dark now and I couldn’t see the debris coming at me now.”
After waiting, he was found by local law enforcement officials. Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Wayne Bartley was Clark’s rescuer, as he was tied to a rope on the bank, then made his way into the water. Clark said Bartley tossed him a rope and a life jacket. In exchange, Clark gave the puppy to Bartley, who got it safely to the bank.
Bartley said he went to the scene, but couldn’t immediately see the truck, so he parked at a nearby home.
“I ran probably three quarters of a mile down the bank, and I found him. He was standing there on top of his pickup truck, and the water was about at his knees” Bartley said.
With the truck closer to the opposite side of the creek from Bartley, he went back to the road and crossed the creek at a covered bridge farther downstream while rescue squad members kept an eye on Clark.
“Me and Dante Smalley crossed the creek at the bridge and went down to where he was at, and Dante tied the rope around a tree, then held it and gave me the slack, and we tied him up and pulled him in.”
Bartley added that Clark was “a bit concerned” when he was rescued, and said he wasn’t about to let go of the puppy.
“You have to pay attention when you’re dealing with water,” Bartley said. “If it’s over the road, don’t go through it.”
Bartley knows what he’s talking about, and this was not his first water rescue. He had made another as recently as this time last year on Croake Station Road, which is not very far from the location of this rescue.
“I can’t say enough about the local police and fire, rescue, and everybody who helped to rescue me,” Clark said. “I understand they were doing their job, but I sure do appreciate it. It was something that I’ll never forget. You just don’t realize how powerful water can be. I know I’ll never drive through a mudhole again after this.”