William Frye, 50, dairy farmer, helped to save Pauline E. and Clifford E. Whitney, millwright, both 46, Troy O. Pickens, 59, laborer, and Galvin C. Kerns, 45, carpenter, from drowning, Klamath, California, December 22, 1955. When a sawmill atop which they had sought refuge from the rising floodwaters of Klamath River collapsed, the Whitneys, Pickens, Kerns, and Whitney’s brother were thrown into the debris laden water. The three Whitneys, holding to an inflated rubber mattress, were carried by the swift current 600 feet to a partially submerged tree in deep water which covered the normal bank of the river. Kerns and Pickens were carried to other trees 40 feet apart 150 feet farther upstream. After clinging to the tree for an hour, Whitney’s brother floated downstream on the mattress and was drowned after being knocked into the water when the mattress struck a bridge. The others continued clinging to the trees; and eight hours later their cries for help attracted William Frye and his brother, Greeley M., who were searching the floodwaters for their cattle in a 16 foot rowboat equipped with a five horsepower motor. The Fryes moved their boat across submerged pastures to within 400 feet of the Whitneys, but decided to get a more powerful motor before venturing into the area of swift current and heavy debris. After substituting a 25 horsepower motor, they proceeded back across the pastureland to the aid of the Whitneys. To avoid collision with debris, William piloted the boat as directed by Greeley, who occasionally fended off floating objects with an oar as they maneuvered across a current of three to seven miles an hour among such debris as whole buildings and dead cattle and horses to the Whitneys, where the water then was 15 feet deep. After being aided into the boat, the Whitneys appealed to the Fryes to get Kerns and Pickens. William and Greeley, using the same procedure as before, maneuvered their boat upstream against the current to a 50 foot log extending between the trees in which Pickens and Kerns were marooned in water nine feet deep. As William operated the motor in reverse to prevent the swift current from carrying the boat downstream, the others held the craft against the log, and Greeley aided Pickens and Kerns aboard. Operating as before, the Fryes maneuvered the craft through the swift area into the calmer floodwaters and thence to William’s farm. The Whitneys, Pickens, and Kerns sustained bruises from being struck by debris while clinging to the trees but recovered.
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