First responders conduct river rescue at Rawson Island

Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2021 9:14:10 PM

First responders conducted a water rescue Thursday evening after a man attempted to swim across the Connecticut River between Greenfield and Turners Falls, but grew tired by the time he reached Rawson Island.

Turners Falls Fire Chief John Zellmann said the man came down from the Greenfield side of the river at Rocky Mountain Park and intended to swim across toward Turners Falls in the area of Rawson Island and the Rock Dam. After swimming to the island, Zellmann said the man had grown “exhausted” and made a call to 911 at 5:08 p.m.

“He was walking home, and I don’t know if he decided he could go that way as a shortcut,” Zellmann said.

The Turners Falls Fire Department, Greenfield Fire Department and Montague Police Department all responded to coordinate the rescue.

“We went down and ended up using our Zodiac (inflatable boat) to grab him from the island, and then came back across,” Zellmann said.

The canal had been drained this past weekend, but water was once again flowing by Thursday afternoon. The rescue team coordinated with the Northfield Mountain hydroelectric facility owned by FirstLight Power to attempt to slow the river current. Zellmann said “that itself was a feat,” but afterwards “the boat operation went smoothly.”

The man, who had his personal belongings in a backpack, did not sustain any injuries, Zellmann said, and was “just tired” after struggling to get across the river.

Zellmann said the individual made the “smart choice” to stay on Rawson Island and call for help after getting half-way across the river.

“They thought they could do the Turners side, but he made the smart choice to stay where he was and not go any farther,” Zellmann said. “The current was pretty quick.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.

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