‘I’m not gonna let you drown’: Mother recounts terrifying water rescue

(Courtesy: Jessica Nichols)

MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Reliving a dramatic weekend canoe trip, Jessica Nichols and her two oldest children are now home safe.

“They were afraid and just holding onto me for dear life,” Nichols said. “I just kept telling them, you know, I’m not gonna let you drown. I’m not gonna let you go. You’re ok, momma’s got you.”

The three were canoeing Sunday along the Duck River in Maury County along with Nichols’ father when it started to storm.

Almost done with their nine-mile trek, they tried to head back to shore.

“We ended up getting pulled into a tree that was down on the side of the river,” Nichols said. “It made the canoe flip all the way over.”

The family of four was able to get to the fallen tree and hold on.

“The branches and stuff were in the water, and I had my ore wedged into one of the limbs and was using it to brace my side so that I could hold my kids in my other arm, and my dad was just further down the branch. And that was the only thing that held us all together there was actually hanging onto the branches. That was the only thing that kept us from getting swept down the river,” Nichols told News 2.

A passing kayaker tried to help, but Nichols said the current was too strong, so the kayaker called 911.

DISPATCHER: “911, what is your emergency?”

CALLER: “There’s a family on a canoe on River Rats 9 mile and it flipped and stuck in a tree, and they got kids in the tree, and they’re just floating in the river.”

As rescue crews searched for the four, another family in two canoes made it over and grabbed four-year-old Mayzie and six-year-old Jordyn, taking them to safety.

(Courtesy: Maury County Fire Department)

“There was a fear that if something was to happen to their canoe that I wouldn’t know,” Nichols said. “I wouldn’t be able to help them because I had sent them with someone else, but at the same time, I knew it was better to have them go and then to continue to sit in the tree.”

Nichols and her father were able to climb up the tree as they tried to look for help. Unfortunately, all they could see was an empty field.

Eventually, two more boaters were able to rescue Nichols and her father.

“We are very grateful and appreciative of everything that they did for us,” Nichols said. “I’m just really glad that we’re all okay.”

Nichols said her family rented the canoe from River Rat’s Canoe Rental in Maury County. River Rat’s was closed Monday due to high water.

Nichols also credits life vests for saving the lives of her family. She calls this a perfect example of why it’s important for boaters to wear them at all times.