River rescuers urge tubing groups to stay safe on Susquehanna

BAINBRIDGE, Pa. (WHTM) – More than 50 people were rescued from the Susquehanna River over the weekend when hundreds showed up for a tubing event in Lancaster County.

“Anything that would float was on the river Saturday,” Conoy Township supervisor Stephen Mohr said.

Mohr stumbled upon the sea of tubers but says no officials were notified of the event posted on Facebook. Organizers told him they expected dozens of people but that turned into more than 600.

“There should have been firefighters, River Rescue,” Mohr said. “Everyone should have been prepared, maybe even stationed at sections along the river.”

That could have helped when things got chaotic.

“I was standing on the shore watching the individuals go through one of the roughest sections,” Mohr said.

Local firefighters rescued more than 50 people who became stuck on the river. Luckily, there was only one injury: a broken ankle.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t see a single life jacket, and I was specifically looking for that,” Mohr said.

Officials say that’s rule number one.

“You hear it every year,” said Matt Stoner, commander of New Cumberland River Rescue. “Wear life jackets. Number one priority. Like a seat belt, wear it.”

Stoner says drownings are up this year and New Cumberland’s victims were not wearing life jackets.

“Mainly keep an eye on the kids,” he said. “That seems to be a big problem this year.”

There are rules for adults, too.

“If you’re going to swim, don’t drink,” Stoner said. “That’s the bottom line. Like drinking and driving, don’t do it.”

That’s a worry for the upcoming July 4 weekend and a factor in last weekend’s fiasco.

“Currents are strong because waters are up right now,” Stoner said.

Mohr says he’s glad things weren’t worse.

“Lady Susquehanna had a different idea and she made sure they got through,” he said. “There had to be somebody else looking over them, too.”

Local river rescue teams will have extra staff on the water this weekend.

If you are having a large event, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission asks that you notify them or local law enforcement to ensure full preparation.

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