Rescue of teen girls swept away in current is reminder of hidden dangers of Great Miami River

The Black Street Bridge, built about a century ago, will need to be replaced within about 20 years. That is part of the reason for the proposed North Hamilton Crossing bridge-and-highway project. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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The Black Street Bridge, built about a century ago, will need to be replaced within about 20 years. That is part of the reason for the proposed North Hamilton Crossing bridge-and-highway project. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Great Miami River in Hamilton looked like a perfect spot to cool off Friday night, but two teens soon learned of the water’s deceivingly strong current and were left clutching to the Black Street Bridge to stay afloat.

Hamilton Police and Fire were dispatched to the Black Street Bridge around 7 p.m., when a frantic mother called 911 saying the 16-year-old girls were swimming and the current began dragging them.

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The woman told dispatchers she could not swim to save them.

“Please get somebody down here,” mother says while screaming do not let go of the bridge to the girls.“They were swimming up and the current has brought them down ... they are holding on to the bridge. I am freaking out.”

Officer Tyler Hensley was the first to arrive and swam to the girls to make sure they were able to hold onto the bridge until rescue crews could help, according to police. Hensley stayed with them until crews arrived.

The Hamilton Fire Water Rescue Unit arrived and brought the teenagers to safety. There were no injuries.

Officials say it’s a good lesson of caution about swimming in the river and just how dangerous the current can be.

“Deceiving” is the word used by both Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit and Middletown Police Chief David Birk, along with Major Mike Craft, a veteran of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol.

“You can safely recreate in the river, whether it be rowing, boating or fishing, but as far as swimming, if you are not familiar or not prepared, there are dangers with the strong current. This was a bad idea for young people to be in the water under those conditions,” Bucheit said. “We are just thankful everybody went home safe.”

Craft, who has participated in river rescues for 30 years, said, “the look of our river is so deceiving. You can see people walk out fishing and it looks like it is to their knees. Then one more step leads to deep water and undercurrent and it will pull you under — fast.”

The river looks calm in the Middletown area, but Birk said it is far from it.

“Everyone has to be cautious and understand the water is more dangerous than it appears.”

Both Birk and Bucheit pointed to splash pads in their cities and other areas as great options for cooling down this summer. Most are opening around the Memorial Day holiday.

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