GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – Five people are thankful to be alive, safe and sound and ringing in the new year. This after a dramatic late night rescue on the Escatawpa River in George and Jackson Counties. If not for the quick action of search and rescue volunteers, the story could have turned out very differently.

Sunday night, Michael Holloway and a friend jumped into a canoe to rescue three young women from the raging waters of the Escatawpa River in George County. Their kayaks had capsized. Little did Holloway know he would soon become a victim himself, when the canoe he was in also capsized.

“We just got sucked underneath a tree and there was nothing we could do. We lost everything we had other than a couple of flashlights and a lighter. Was finally able to make it to the bank and get a fire going and keep everybody warm until help arrived,” Holloway recalled.

That help came after a phone call to 911. Volunteers from George County Search and Rescue sprang into action. One of was Morris Smith.

Constant training helps that mission, according to George County EMA Director Nancy Smith.

“We train all year long to get ready for stuff like this. We stay prepared. You never know when we may be needed so that’s the utmost importance.”

Right now, the Escatawpa River is not the place to be. That’s the word from George County Sheriff Keith Havard.

He added the level of help from volunteers does not go unnoticed.

“Anytime we have lost individuals, such as this on the river, or kids in the woods or whatever, they volunteer their time to come out and assist the sheriff’s department.”

Many of these rescue volunteers have worked many tragic incidents over the years, seeing death and critical injuries. Having none of that this time made their day.

And no one knows that better than five people who are now celebrating the start of a new year.

Members of the Jackson County sheriff’s flotilla also assisted in the rescue operation, supplying manpower and boats. By the way, George County search and rescue operates solely on donations.

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