A Johnston County deputy is being lauded for his "heroic" efforts in rescuing a woman from the icy waters of the Blue River Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff Jon Smith said what "could have been a recovery operation of a drowning victim," was prevented by the quick actions of Deputy Bobby Morgan.
Morgan, Undersheriff Johnny Russell and Deputy Vernon Williams responded about 4:20 p.m. to a fisherman's report of a body floating in the water near the Blue River Bridge, located on State Highway 7, northeast of Tishomingo.
"Deputy Morgan ran to the river where the fisherman, J.J. Gourley of Oklahoma City was, and observed a young woman out in the middle of the river in a fetal position with only her face above water," Smith said in a press release.
The woman, identified as Stormy Henderson, 27, Atoka, managed to indicate she was alive by moaning. Morgan quickly removed all of his equipment and stripped down to his uniform pants and entered the water. He attempted to reach the victim with the aid of the fisherman's flotation device. However, the device hindered his progress. He moved the float behind him and was able to reach the victim.
"Upon Deputy Morgan nearing the lady he advised her to put her arms around him but she was unable to do so, apparently due to hypothermia which limited her ability to move. He then grabbed her around the waist and began swimming back to the river bank with his other arm," Smith said
EMS attendants and other officers on scene pulled the woman and Morgan out of the of the water. Henderson was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital Tishomingo, where she was treated and later released. Medics treated Morgan at the scene.
Henderson later told deputies she frequented the area because she enjoyed the natural surroundings. Thursday afternoon she parked her car in the Blue River Hunting and Fishing Area parking lot south of the bridge and walked to the river in search of bird feathers. She said she saw a feather floating in the river, leaned over to retrieve it and fell into the water.
"The water temperature was reported to be quite frigid ...," Smith said. "The river current evidently eventually carried her out into the middle of the river."
Gourley reported he had been fishing in Pennington Creek earlier in the day but had not been successful. He said a friend suggested he try the Blue River near the bridge. Gourley drove to the area where he had fished several times before but decided to go south of the bridge into an area he had never been to or fished before.
"That is when he spotted what he thought to be a body in the water," Smith said.
The sheriff described the circumstances that led to Henderson's rescue "miraculous," adding, "... there was no one else in that area of the river at the time ... had not Gourley 'mysteriously' shown up at that area at that exact time, the whole incident would have definitely turned out to have been much more grim and the woman would have most assuredly succumbed to the effects of hypothermia and drowned."
Henderson was released from the hospital Thursday and was reportedly, "doing fine." She expressed her gratitude to Gourley and Morgan and thanked all the responders.
"Gourley advised that it was a fishing trip he would never forget and unlike any other he had ever been on," Smith said.