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Worker credited with saving young fisherman's life

By Preston Ayres, payres@wcyb.com
Published On: May 28 2013 04:50:26 PM CDT
Updated On: May 28 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

A Gray, Tennessee teen was fly fishing with his dad in the Holston River at the Weir Dam when he slipped and was carried downstream. He says quick intervention by two nearby men saved his life.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

13-year-old Jonathan Clark loves to go fishing. 

Two weeks ago the Gray, Tennessee teen was fly fishing with his dad in the Holston River at the Weir Dam. He was standing chest-deep in water when he slipped on a rock. "When I first slipped I thought I could catch myself,” says Clark, “but then the water went down my waders everywhere." 

The river was running higher than normal thanks to days of rain. In seconds, Clark was being pulled downstream. “I was scared. I thought I was going to drown,” says Clark. “They could see me but I thought I was going to sink. I couldn't get back up because of how heavy [the waders] were." 

He yelled for help, catching the attention of a man on a bridge who then yelled for Allen Hawkins. "I was cleaning the bathrooms up here,” says Hawkins. “He yelled, said a man fell in the water and couldn't get up." 

Hawkins started to run, but instead jumped on an ATV and raced to the riverbank. 

By that time, Clark had managed to cling to a tree limb. "I just reached over and pulled him to the side, emptied him out. [His waders were] full of water," said Hawkins. 

Hawkins downplays his actions, saying he did what anyone would do. But Jonathan Clark believes the quick response by Hawkins and the man on the bridge he never met very likely saved his life. "Thank you. I'm grateful," says Clark. 

Jonathan plans to continue the sport he loves and will go fly fishing again soon. He says the near-death experience taught him a new respect for the water and next time he won't wade out as deep again.