James G. Combs died attempting to save David L. VanOflen from drowning, Hamilton, Ohio, March 15, 1961. A man took his young son and David, 4, for a ride on Great Miami River in a motorboat, which stalled above a dam almost covered by the water which was five feet higher than normal. Water temperature was 39 degrees. The swift current swept all three persons over the dam into water eight to nine feet deep. The man and his son reached the bank safely. David who was wearing a life jacket, was carried downstream 200 feet from the bank. Combs, 26, millwright helper, ran to the bank, removed his jacket and shirt, and then entered the water still wearing heavy leather boots. Calling that he would try to get David, Combs swam with great effort and gained steadily to within 20 feet of him but then appeared to tire. He continued swimming but gradually got farther from David and was submerged briefly. After swimming more than 1,100 feet in pursuit of David, Combs sank and remained submerged. David was carried under the first of four bridges in the area. By then many other persons had been attracted. From the bank below the first bridge, Arnold W. Parrett entered the water after removing his jacket and shoes. By swimming hard he overtook David and attempted to tow him toward the bank, but both were carried downstream. The swift current pulled David from the grasp of Parrett, who regained his hold but still could not make any progress toward the bank. The current again jerked David from Parrett’s grasp. Tiring rapidly, Parrett swam after David but could not overtake him and was submerged intermittently. At the second bridge Parrett who had swum 3,000, feet grasped a rope lowered by firemen and with difficulty clung to it until two policemen reached him in a motorboat and took him aboard. Meanwhile David had been swept under the third bridge and carried to within a 100 feet of the bank. Malcolm Orr Cook, Jr., who was on the opposite bank, undressed to his undershorts, entered the cold water, and swam diagonally across the swift current. Estimating that David would be carried close to a pier of the fourth bridge, Cook swam to the pier and clung to a pile of debris, which had collected there. The diverted current carried David beyond his reach. Cook, who had swum 1,400 feet, was about to start after David again when he saw the policemen in the motorboat. The policemen overtook David, who still was conscious, and pulled him aboard. They took David and Parrett to the bank, and then removed Cook from the debris pile. David was hospitalized three days and recovered. Nearly four weeks later the body of Combs was found 30 miles downstream.
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