Oren S. Williams helped to save James D. Collins and Marcus C. Collins from drowning, Pembroke, Virginia, June 20, 1960. In early evening James, 19, garage attendant, and Marcus, 39, industrial plant fireman and James’s father, accompanied by a young man, entered treacherous rapids in New River in a rowboat. The craft struck a rock 150 feet from the bank, throwing the three occupants into deep water, which was rising rapidly due to water released from a dam. Marcus held his son against the rock by grasping the top with his hands and wrapping his legs around it. The young man, who was a good swimmer, swam with difficulty to the bank and summoned help. Among those attracted to the area were Williams, 39, courthouse custodian, John D. Falls, and George T. David. By the time they arrived several unsuccessful rescue attempts had been made. Marcus called out that they could not hold much longer to the rock. Farther upstream Williams obtained a wooden rowboat 20 feet long and, because there were no oars, cut a sapling pole six feet long. It was then dark. Accompanied by Falls and David, Williams steered the boat downstream by means of the pole. Approaching the rapids, he advised Marcus and James of his plan to steer the craft within their reach so that they could grasp it as it passed. In the rapids, Williams stroked with the pole to keep the boat on a fairly direct course in the swift current. When the craft reached them three hours after the accident, Marcus heaved James over the gunwale and then grasped the boat himself as Williams continued steering it with the pole. David and Falls drew James and then Marcus into the boat, which tilted but did not capsize. After steering the craft through the swiftest part of the rapids, Williams maneuvered it diagonally across the current to the bank.
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