Fremont Firefighters Speak Out A Week After Dramatic Elkhorn River Rescue

Strong winds and choppy conditions made water rescue dangerous and difficult last Thursday. In Dodge County, it could have turned deadly for five firefighters and two air boat operators.

"There was nothing anybody could do that was going to change what happened," Fremont Firefighter Nick Morris said. "It's just an unforeseeable thing. The river is unpredictable. It's dangerous."

Morris was one of seven rescuers on the two air boats that capsized while they were trying to respond to a call for a family that had their home surrounded by water. It was waist deep and extremely cold. Hypothermia was setting in.

"At one point, they were talking about launching other boats," Morris said. "We just knew we couldn't commit any more resources or bodies to that. It was just going to compound the situation."

Instead, two National Guard helicopters came to the rescue from Lincoln. They airlifted all those rescuers to get treatment. "When we got out there, you kind of look around and realize that if we would've went another 100 years, we probably wouldn't be here having this talk right now," Fremont Firefighter Rich Osterloh said.

As the floodwaters rose throughout the Heartland, they said it was their mission to keep helping. "I was given some time home," Morris said. "I'm grateful for that, but I was listening to my brothers keep working through this whole thing. I couldn't just sit and do nothing."

Doing whatever was needed to help. "We're just a big family here," Fremont Professional Fire Fighters President Dave Wordekemper said. "That's what brings us here and we know we have a job to do."

With a long recovery expected, they plan on doing the job they promised to do -- keeping others safe. "We were risking a lot to save a lot," Morris said. "That's what we do."

The Dodge County Sheriff's Office told 6 News a helicopter went back to help the family the firefighters were trying to rescue, but they refused transport. The sheriff's office did not have more information on how the house or those residents are doing now.

(Photo courtesy of 6 News

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