McMinnville Fire Department had to rescue its new rescue boat Friday morning. A test in deep water of a boat designed for shallow water resulted in the boat tipping over and sinking.
The incident happened at Riverfront Park around 11 a.m. Firefighters were simulating a river rescue in deep water, with two men in the boat attempting to pull one man out of the water, when the boat tilted to the side, filled with water and sunk.
The boat was purchased by the city from Towee Boats Manufacturing, a local company, for about $14,000. Todd Gregory, president of Towee Boats, says the boat was not designed for deep-water rescue.
“The purpose of today’s test was, ‘Can we use the boat for something else.’ The department wants a boat to use above the dam in deep water. I advised them that they probably can’t. They wanted to try, which was the reason for the test.”
The boat was ordered by the Warren County Rescue Squad and purchased by the city of McMinnville. Ordered was a light-weight, shallow-water boat with a jet motor.
“They wanted a shallow-water boat, a boat that would get in places where others won’t go, like up the Barren Fork in 4 inches of water,” said Gregory. “They asked for a jet motor so no propellor is hanging down, and for it to be light weight.”
In order to make the boat as light as possible, it was also ordered without flotation foam in the bottom. Gregory says the absence of foam is what sunk the firefighters.
“This boat was ordered without flotation foam in it,” said Todd. “With foam in the boat, it would have held up to 4,000 pounds.”
Flotation foam does not prevent the boat from filling with water. Instead, foam prevents the boat from sinking if it does fill with water.
The boat was purchased by the city in November by the former board in a partnership effort with the Rescue Squad. The cost, boat and trailer, was approximately $14,000.
Towee Boats is a leading manufacturer of shallow-water boats for harsh environmental conditions. It’s local facility is inside Red Road Business Park.