Tyler Zinland, Tylor Bouchard and Trevor Bouchard were warm and dry in their Belmont home after rescuing a woman who plunged over Clement Dam in Tilton on Sunday. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)
By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — Trevor Bouchard knew something was different with river last Sunday.
The 23-year-old construction worker who, along with his brother and an a friend saved a woman who fell over the Clement Dam in Tilton, said he spends a lot of time tubing along the Winnipesaukee River.
"I knew the minute I went around the last curve (before the Riverside Mill) that the water was too shallow," he said Wednesday.
"It was 'rapid-y,'"he said, creating his own descriptive word for how fast the river was flowing.
Trevor, his brother Tylor and roommate Tyler Zinkand were part of a group of friends who took advantage of the hot weather on June 18 and spent the latter part of the afternoon floating down the Winnipesaukee River on giant inner tubes.
Their group of friends were ahead of the woman who plunged over the dam after being thrown from her kayak. She has yet to be identified.
While Trevor, Tyler and Tylor were able to pull themselves out of the river, the woman was not. Tyler, who said he had never been down the river before but was warned by Trevor to get out of the water when he first saw that one of the dam gates was open.
Tyler said he saw the woman get thrown from her kayak after it either came near or hit a rock. He said a man and his dog that were with her were also thrown from theirs, but he was able to get to shore.
She was not able to get to shore and he said he saw her headed down the river toward the dam, where a gate was open. Normally there is a fence to prevent such accidents, but it was missing.
"I began running toward the dam and then ran down the embankment below it," said Tyler, a Department of Transportation construction worker who is a member of the U.S. National Guard, adding he was pretty sure she would be swept down. He said she was yelling for help.
He said he waited at the bottom of the dam but when he didn't see her, he said he ran back up to the top of the dam and saw she was hanging on to a tree branch that had gotten stuck in some rocks about 10 to 15 feet above the dam opening.
Meanwhile, Trevor and Tylor said they saw her hanging on to a tree branch.
Trevor tried to reach her by holding on to an oil boom that was tied to the shore and swimming along the closed part of the dam.
"I kept talking to her and trying to calm her," he said. "I told her they (the fire department) would be here."
All of them said Tilton-Northfield Fire Captain David Hall made an amazing effort to try and reach the woman in a kayak he commandeered from another kayaker.
"He was awesome," they all said, noting that Hall went over the dam himself but was able to get out of the water.
"He was very (mad) that he couldn't reach her, but he did an amazing job," said Trevor.
Tylor, an associate of Snap-On Tools, said he also went into the water to help his brother try and reach the woman but said the oil boom was too short.
"She was really strong," he said, noting she held on to the tree branch for a while but the current was too strong.
The three of them, and a another man named Matt, got out of the water and began running through the woods and bushes down the river.
Still barefoot, all of them ran along the bank through puckerbrushes, climbing two chain link fences in their efforts to find her along the lower part of the river.
"One of them had barbed wire on the top, too," said Tyler.
It was Trevor who saw her first and said he was able to get into the river and pull her to shore. All three said they reached he about a quarter of a mile down river from the dam.
From there, Tyler said he started to use some of his military training to try and stop her from going into shock. The said she was breathing but very shallowly.
Describing her as disoriented, he said the goal was to keep her from losing consciousness by asking her questions until firefighters could get down to the riverside and bring her out.
"Normally, I would want to keep her warm," said Tyler, who added that unfortunately they didn't have anything like that with them because they were wearing wet shorts and little else.
He said they began yelling to the firefighters so they could find them and bring the woman up the embankment to safety.
All three of them said they got a number of small cuts and scratches on themselves from running down the river's edge, mentioning the puckerbrush again.
"One guy who was with them told us that our parents had done a good job of raising us," said Tyler.
They also suggested that the people who manage the dam and the river post a sign just before the last turn that says "Dam Ahead" because people are able to get out of the river before the last bend.
"I know we should have checked to see if the dam was open," said Tyler.
"For future people, check the river," they echoed.
As for the woman, Chief Mike Sitar said she was out of the hospital.
"We don't care about the thanks," said Trevor. "We only care that she is OK."
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