September 25, 2021

Three local teens rescued from Tennessee River after boat overturns at fishing tournament

(Decatur, AL) — Three young local fisherman are thankful to God and two Alabama men who rescued them from a harrowing experience in the Tennessee River over the weekend.

Anthony Jones, C.J. Bradfield, and Jacob Holcombe are lucky to be alive after their fishing boat capsized in the Tennessee River near Decatur, Alabama.

All three are avid fisherman and 2015 graduates of Heard High School. The trio traveled to Alabama to compete in their first big fishing event,  the Backwater Outdoors All Out Carp Out tournament.

Unfortunately, soon after the guys launched Holcombe’s boat from Ingalls Harbor near Decatur late Saturday night, they saw that the river was too rough and started to head back in.

Their boat capsized in the rough waters, throwing the teens and all their equipment in the water. They were able to climb on the boat and yell for help, and three hours later, it came in the form of two fellow fisherman from Alabama, Joey Tuner and Patrick Slappey.

Neither of the three boys were wearing life jackets at the time, and they were unable to retrieve them from underneath the capsized vessel.

Joey Turner, who works for Northeast Morgan County Water, and Patrick Slappey, who works for the Town of Somerville, are being hailed as heroes after they rescued the boys from the dire situation.

“That river can turn pretty bad in certain weather conditions. You get a lot of wind and it can get three to four foot swells out there, white caps,” Turner told WHNT 19 news.

Joey Turner (L) and Patrick Slappey (Photo Morgan County Rescue Squad)

Joey Turner (L) and Patrick Slappey (Photo: Morgan County Rescue Squad)

The three boys were wet and very cold after spending three hours in the water but did not require medical treatment.

Once Turner and Slappey got the teenagers safely back to Ingalls Harbor, Turner called 9-1-1 and the Morgan County Rescue Squad was able to retrieve Holcombe’s boat.

According to one of the teens, the situation was especially scary because boats were passing by in the large channel of the river but could not see or hear them calling for help.

“We were all definitely scared — there were five or six boats that passed us but couldn’t hear or see us,” said Anthony Jones.

“We didn’t know how long we would be there or where we would end up. We didn’t know it at the time but our anchor caught a sand bar. That was by the grace of God because if we hadn’t hit that we wouldn’t have been on those guys’ fishing spot and there’s a good chance we would’ve floated down river to who knows where.”

All the boys are very thankful for the men who saved them. “Words can’t describe my gratitude for those two men. There’s no way we could ever repay or thank them enough,” Jones said.

The three friends have been fishing together for almost two years. Bradfield says the experience was a true eye opener about how precious life can be.

“In the blink of an eye everything in life can change and at that at that split moment when the boat was going down all I could think about was losing my family and my friends and that I know God is very real and he was watching over us on the trip,” says Bradfield.

“We were thankful for God covering us with his blood to let us make it back to safety and I would personally like to send a special shout out to the guys that saved us on the water. They will always have a very special place in my heart for saving my life and my buddies’ lives and may God bless them!”

Turner and Slappey also received a hero’s welcome from Holcombe’s parents who were at the scene when the boys were brought back in.

“Jacob’s dad, as soon as he came up, he just ran up to us and shook our hand and hugged our neck. God always puts you where he wants you,” said Slappey.

This was an eye opener for the teens. All three say they will never again get in a boat without a life jacket on.

Click here to see a video interview with Turner and Slappey at Photos courtesy of Morgan County Rescue Squad on Facebook.

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