The man was posing for a picture when he slipped and fell into the river, which was running at a high level and speed after the recent heavy rains, on Sept. 30.
“The floodwaters are moving very quickly,” Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer told WTOP. “It is a dangerous environment.”
Fortunately for the man, some bystanders worked together to rescue him. They probably saved his life.
“We believe that their actions were likely lifesaving in this case,” Piringer said.
Video footage recorded by others showed the rescue.
“Some passersby had intervened and slowed this person down. We believe that he was hanging on to some obstacles in the water. The water was very high,” Piringer said of the rescue, reported Fox 32.
The man fell in around 5:30 p.m. just south of the visitor’s center, near Olmstead Island.
The man was treated by paramedics before being rushed to a hospital for further treatment of serious injuries, reported CBS.
The rushing water prompted officials to issue flood warnings for the areas around the Potomac late Sunday, and a number of trails inside Great Falls Park were closed due to flooding.
Wow. A raging Potomac River along the Billy Goat Trail! We were bummed that Section A was closed due to flooding but it’s clear why. Beautiful day to be here ☀️🍃 pic.twitter.com/XZgJP9sW8Y
— Kelly Rule (@KellyRuleTV) September 30, 2018
With all the rain Great Falls is gushing! It was a perfect morning to be at the park on the Va side after we made the mistake of first going to the flooded, still closed Md side. @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/FmKdXIA6cO
— Julie Carey (@JulieCareyNBC) September 30, 2018
Fatalities at Great Falls
Swimming and entering the Potomac is prohibited, according to the National Park Service.
“Dangerous currents, rocks, and rapids make the river extremely hazardous. Rescues from the river itself are difficult. Keep your distance from cliff edges and use caution while hiking in rocky areas,” the service stated.
A number of people do go swimming and cliff jumping into the river, while others fall out of kayaks or slip while taking pictures or fishing.
Between 2001 and 2013, 27 people died in river accidents at Great Falls, according to the Washington Post. The water appears tranquil when at normal level, enticing many to enter.
“People think, ‘If this place was dangerous, they wouldn’t let me be down here,'” Lawrence Mullin, a member of a white-water rescue team from Fairfax County, told the Post.
Many dangers exist that can’t be seen, including entrapments such as fallen trees and tangles of fishing line and potholes in the riverbed. Cliff jumping is popular, but one wrong jump can result in serious injury or death.
A 2011 study by the service found that more than 50 percent of injuries in the river are fatal.