Brian Chilson
Late-night swamp rescue squad Tony Sanders and Danny Akines recount their unfortunate adventure.

A big crowd turned out at the Arch Street Fire Department Tuesday to honor rescuers who came to the aid of two people who wandered into dense, swampy woods in south Pulaski County near Lorance Creek last month while taking photos and couldn’t make their way out.

Present for formal remarks and photos: Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde, Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins, former Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay, Office of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary, Pulaski County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth, Justice of the Peace Judy Green, and multiple mustachioed firemen, deputies and other first responders.


Not present: the rescuees.

Can you blame them? Getting trapped in a swamp overnight is pretty embarrassing. Hearing rescuer accounts of that night, one surmises the victims of Lorance Creek’s quicksand-like mud and overgrown flora made some missteps we can all learn from.


The two adventurous photographers — who went unnamed Tuesday — reportedly plunged into dense vegetation and relatively deep water off Arch Street near an Entergy substation on Oct. 20, when there was plenty of daylight left. Their call for help came in around 8:30 p.m., as night fell and temperatures started to dip. The mud in Lorance Creek can feel bottomless, and if you don’t keep moving, you’ll sink. So the lost photographers climbed into a tree and waited for assistance.

Sheriff’s deputies flew a drone overhead to find them, but then progress stalled. By 10:30 p.m., deputies called for backup from the Arch Street Fire Department and the Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management.


Reinforcements brought an amphibious all-terrain vehicle that proved far too big to drive through the thick walls of vegetation in the area. A heat-seeking drone was more handy, helping to keep tabs on the two people shivering in the tree.

Brian Chilson
Flanked by Office of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary on the left and Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde on the right, agency representatives accept awards for their role in an Oct. 20 swamp rescue.

Here’s an account of the rescue from Pulaski County:

PCSO attempted to enter the swamp from one side but got its vehicle stuck. OEM and ASFD tried to go in from the east in the Amphibious ATV, but the tree line was too tight and it would not fit.

Finally, as the hours drew later and later, Danny Akines and Tony Sanders from OEM were able to access the swamp by entering from the north side. Director of Emergency Management Andy Traffanstedt, PCSO and ASFD set up command at a power substation on Arch Street. From there, they watched the two different sets of heat signatures through the drones and directed Akines and Sanders to the victims.

Much of the way through the swamp, the victims and OEM were wading in water up to their waists in cold weather. With the assistance of PCSO, the victims were walked safely out of the swamp and taken to a medical center to be treated for hypothermia.

Akines and Sanders, who sat quietly in the crowd Tuesday as higher-ups shared praise and official accounts of that night, offered a bit more detail afterwards.

A logistics training officer with a few rescue operations under his belt, Akines teamed up with co-worker and hazmat specialist Sanders, who’s newer to the job. The two opted to forego waders for fear they would just fill up with water. Instead, they plowed into waist-deep water in their street clothes, despite the chilly 57-degree temperature.


Other teams of rescuers came from different directions to converge on the target, but Akines and Sanders got there first.

“It took some time because they’d sat there so long, wet, that their muscles were stiffed up, so they had to move. It took some time to coax them out of the tree,” Akines said.

With Akines’ and Sanders’ help, the swamp photographers walked and waded the third of a mile back to the road. It wasn’t far, but it was tricky, Akines said. After hours of huddling in a tree in wet shoes and clothes, hypothermia had set in, keeping the photographers from being able to move very fast. And by this time it was after 1 a.m. No easy paths out revealed themselves in the darkness.

“It was just like a maze. It was the thickest swamp brush you’ve ever seen in there,” he said.

Sanders and Akines agreed they’ve never been part of a rescue effort like this one and said they aren’t particularly eager for a repeat. The takeaways, Akines said, are these: Make sure, as you plan your trip, that you’ll be back before it gets dark. Use the GPS feature on your phone to mark your spot.

“And don’t go into places where you shouldn’t be, like swamps.”

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde honored rescue workers who saved two people from a swamp in October.

County Judge Barry Hyde handed out plaques to the three emergency response teams to thank them for spending that night out in the wet and cold. “When we don’t show up and remember to thank you for your work, hopefully this is a reminder that we appreciate you every day,” he said.