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Bull Hole River Rescue
Eli Pulls Teen Out of Raging Yadkin at Carolina Cook Out

watermelon teens cook out
Eli and Jacob - Ready for Fun Day


water dam bull hole cooleemee
Rain Had the Water Pouring Over


raging river yakin cooleemee nc
Chocolate Milk Colored Yadkin


eli river rescue yadkin
First Glimpse of Safe Son


mom hugs hero kid eli
Whew - Glad to See Ya Kid-o

“Eli went in the river,” said Mom. “They can’t find him.”

This is definitely NOT what you want to hear when you’re having a family cook out with friends on the edge of the Yadkin River.

Carolina Cook Out

The grill party was part of an online Food Buzz promotion which involves 24 chefs in 24 cities around the globe cooking some sort of special meal – all over a 24 hour time period. I’d been selected to host a Carolina Cook Out for May.

It took a lot of work to get all the grill gear and food down the steep path at RiverPark at Cooleemee Falls (better known as the Bull Hole). My son and one of his buddies helped unload the trucks and then went down the hill just a little ways to the river.

Bull Hole - RiverPark Cooleemee Falls

Normally, the Bull Hole is a shallow area of the South Yadkin River with knee deep water below some beautiful waterfalls that once powered the old mill in town. It’s long been popular with locals but only recently developed into a park.

The week before the cook out, we’d had a lot of rain. The river was churning and looked more like chocolate milk colored ocean water than the lazy Yadkin.

What’s Going On?

I couldn’t imagine that Eli would have gone swimming with the water up and roaring. He’s an Eagle Boy Scout and just completed lifeguard training at the YMCA. He starts work as a lifeguard next week. He’d know the river was dangerous. It just didn’t make sense.

I raced down the path to the sandy beach area and began tracking down the bank. Most of the other family members and friends had been down at the river and had a head start. I couldn’t see anyone for the trees and undergrowth and couldn’t hear over the crashing of the water.

Some fishermen pointed to the far bank, so I thought maybe Eli had made it across. I went back to the picnic area, because I knew someone would need to drive up highway 801 and cut in behind the mill if Eli was on the far side.

For close a half hour I did not know if my kid was alive or dead, and that’s a terrifying feeling.

Safe and Back From the River

Finally, Eli came walking back up the trail.

I just hugged my kid and gave him a plastic plate to get some grilled food.

Some people have asked why I wasn’t angry or why I didn’t yell at him.

Well, I can’t fault his actions. He went in to save another kid who was drowning.

There were at least 100 people along the river bank that day, and none of them wanted to get in that raging river. The conditions were awful. It wasn’t safe.

But, I could imagine the situation reversed. It could have been my son in trouble, and I’d really hate to think that no one tried to help him.

Eli’s River Rescue Story

Eli is a quiet kid, but he did tell me about his adventure after we got home from the cook out.

He heard the other kid yelling for help and jumped in and started swimming toward him. With the current, there was no time to try to find a rope or anything to throw. There were only seconds to react.

Eli reached out for the boy who was a year younger and close in size. With the water spinning, Eli could not make a lifeguard approach so just grabbed the teen’s arm.

The other boy grabbed Eli around the neck and pulled him under, so Eli had to push off to try again. When he pushed off, the other boy sank.

At that point, Eli had to dive with the water solid mud colored and no visibility. He went under and felt the boy and then locked his arm around back and across his shoulder as trained at the YMCA.

When the boys surfaced, the other boy’s head was tilted forward in the water. Eli yelled in his ear, “Tilt your head back.” The other boy did and then went limp.

The two boys were carried down river with Eli pushing toward the shore with one arm and holding the other boy up with his other arm. Eli was finally able to grab a tree that was leaning out across the water and grabbed the trunk.  

Some fishermen helped pull the boy and then Eli up on the bank by crawling along the tree trunk. The river bank was so waterlogged, it was virtually impossible to get a foothold.

Once on the bank, Eli checked the boy’s vital signs. He was breathing but going in and out of consciousness.

He then borrowed a cell phone and called for help.

After the River Rescue

The boy Eli pulled out was taken to the local hospital where he was treated for minor injuries. He was back in school the next week.

Eli had some scratches on his hands and across his stomach and side, but other than that he was fine – and hungry.

One of the Cooleemee police officers had been an Eagle Scout and told Eli to bring in the paperwork and that they’d fill that out for an award for heroism. Later, Mrs. Beard from West Rowan High School called and said that they were nominating him for a service award at school as well.

Eli was featured on the front page of the Davie County Enterprise Record and the Salisbury Post. He will also be in the Cleveland Chronicle later in the month.

A Word from a Proud Mom

I am proud to be the mother of a hero. Not many people would be willing to do what Eli did. I wouldn't have wanted him in the river that day, but I'm really glad that he got the other boy out of there.



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