Location: Chico, California
Date: July 26, 1989
On July 26, 1989, near Chico, California, fifteen-year-old Reed Taylor and his friends planned to spend the day tubing on the Sacramento River. It was the thing to do in that area, especially on such a hot day. The kids brought an ice chest along and set it to float on its own inner tube. The tube kept floating away, so Reed, who was on an inflatable raft, tied the ice chest to his ankle with a long nylon cord.
One of the girls in the group would warn the others of upcoming "snags", fallen trees in the water that presented a potential menace because of the powerful currents swirling around them. The kids approached a snag and kicked to avoid it, but Reed and eighteen-year-old Sue Miller, who were bringing up the rear, bumped into it. Sue fell off her tube, and the current sucked her under. She popped to the surface and yelled to Reed that her foot had become tangled in the limbs underwater. Reed swam over, freed Sue's foot, boosted her onto his raft and said he'd catch up.
But Reed didn't realize he'd swam into a death trap. The ice chest tied to his ankle had become stuck in the tree limbs and the rushing current was dragging him under. As he fought to keep his head above the surface, he tried in vain to untie the knot around his ankle or at least grab the snag to stay afloat. A passing cyclist heard Reed's cries and rode to get help.
Word of Reed's predicament reached Scotty's Landing, a dock and restaurant owned by John Scott, who on his own patrolled the river and rescued boaters and tubers. Scott jumped into his boat with two employees, including Eric Olson, and sped to the snag.
Meanwhile Cindy Waters and a friend heard Reed's cries as they floated by on inner tubes. Cindy paddled to the bank, backtracked through thorny brush, and climbed on the snag. By the time she reached Reed, he was submerged, having sunk from exhaustion. "I saw the life go right out of him," recalls Cindy. "I wanted to do whatever I could to help him. But what I did wasn't good enough." Cindy reeled in as much rope as she could with one free hand and her teeth, but she couldn't reach Reed.
Within moments, John Scott arrived. Olson leaned overboard, grabbed the rope and dragged Reed's body to the surface. The three men then grabbed his leg, cut the rope and, with great difficulty, lifted him out of the water. "The kid couldn't have weighed over one hundred-fifty pounds," recalled Olson, "and it took three guys well over two hundred pounds to get this kid out. The current was like a magnet." Reed, who had been underwater for at least twenty-five minutes, had no pulse and wasn't breathing. As the men motored back, they administered CPR, and Scott radioed for rescuers to meet at his dock.
Upon reaching their truck, Reed's friends heard that he was being given first aid at Scotty's, but they had no idea he was in serious condition. Meanwhile, people had gathered on the dock and some aided in CPR.
Paramedics Jeff Moore and Carey Allen arrived to treat Reed. They took one look at their lifeless victim and were immediately fraught with hopelessness. Recalls Moore, "In the back of my mind I thought we don't have any hope, and maybe we're even doing this because there's a bunch of people watching us."
Reed's friends arrived and lapsed into a state of shock. "I looked and there was nothing there," recalls Sue. "He was blue. It looked like that couldn't be Reed. It was hard for me to think...If anything happened to Reed--he saved my life."
When Reed was admitted to Enloe Hospital in a severely hypothermic state, he had regained a weak pulse and was breathing on his own, but he was clinically dead. The only thing Reed's parents, Judy and Rocky, and his twin brother, Jeremy, could do was wait. For Jeremy, the situation was overwhelming. "I tried thinking about Reed not being there and I couldn't," says Jeremy. "I couldn't even imagine that we wouldn't be together."
Around three in the morning, Reed opened his eyes. Remarkably, four days later, he was released from the hospital with no ill-effects of his near-drowning. Reed's physician, Dr. Terry Fraters, says Reed survived in part due to immersion in 55-degree water, which greatly reduces the amount of requirements needed to sustain life, especially the brain.
"But," says Dr. Fraters, "I feel that there was miraculous resuscitation. And if the Resurrection was a ten, this would be a nine." "We'd be putting flowers on some stone someplace," says Rocky, "if just one guy had said, we've done all we can. It was an incredible chain of people that contributed."
Reed was released after four days in the hospital showing no ill effects from his near drowning. At the beginning of Reed's sophomore year of high school, Sue went off to college. "I'm going to miss him" said Sue. One year later, Reed is quarterback of the football team again.