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River Rescue On The Big Sioux

July 8, 2014, 5:05 PM by Sammi Bjelland

River Rescue On The Big Sioux

A canoe trip on the Fourth of July took an ugly turn last week.

The Parsons family was going down the Big Sioux River when their canoe tipped and sent the family of four into the rushing water. Luckily, there were several people nearby to help out.

We spoke with the family, and their newfound heroes, about the incident.

The water on the Big Sioux looks pretty calm in most areas, but that can be deceiving.

"It's probably something for everybody to understand; you don't want to underestimate the power of the water. Even if the river is only a few feet deep, it can still pull you underneath," canoer Scott Parsons said. 

Scott Parsons, his wife Yrene and their two little girls were canoeing on the Fourth when they hit some rapids on the Big Sioux River that sent them into the water. While they tried to stay calm for the girls, they quickly realized they were in serious danger.

"The situation deteriorated as the water started pulling the canoe further down. We thought we could flip it right away but we couldn't. Then we starting going into the current and getting pulled under," Scott said. 

"Like sinking, we were just struggling with the current but we were floating, you know," canoer Yrene Parsons said. 

Kurt and Valerie Loudenback saw it all happening from a walking bridge nearby. They decided to jump into action to help out.

"When I got down to over there, about that time the mother let out a scream any mother would recognize. My interpretation was she was losing the child. So not knowing the strength of the river, I went in," Valerie said. 

Kurt and Valerie tried to grab the young girls, but also got sucked into the current.

Josh Disburg and his wife were fishing across the river and rushed over to help. Once Josh hit the water, he realized the situation was worse than he thought.

"I was trying to find the bottom, and never did find the bottom. I don't know how deep it is. But it was moving very fast. The only thing I could think of was to get myself and the child, keep the child above water," Josh said. 

His wife, Jen, says the thought of losing her husband crossed her mind during the rescue, but Josh kept calm and brought all six of the people in the water to shore.

"There was no option at that point. It seemed like it was kind of harmless at first, then when it started going south on everybody, it set in my mind for a minute maybe when I went under water. But I just knew that I had to get that child up to her mom, and that's what I did," Josh said. 

The Parsons say it's a day they will never forget, and they are forever grateful for their group of heroes.

"Incredible Humanity that the people of Sioux Falls have for each other. That people who did not know us at all were willing to risk their lives, literally, to pull us to shore," Scott said. 

"It makes me feel more proud of the country where I live. I feel more in love with American people, you know? Because they say wow, this is the real, real American people," Yrene said.

The Parsons had some qualified help that day.  Josh is a Sioux Falls Police Sergeant, his wife is the Deputy Director of 911, and they also had a nurse come over to help out.

They all say it was truly a group effort, and that is the real reason they got everyone out safely.

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