SUGAR CREEK TWP. — Kelsey Jones and her husband, Henry, weren’t immediately sure what they were seeing.
The couple was out for a drive late Thursday afternoon in Stark County to check out areas of high water in their neighborhood where rain and melting snow had caused a portion of the Sugar Creek to swell and adjacent wetlands to flood. Earlier in the day, nearby Brewster officials had announced road closures at the usual trouble spots.
Kelsey Jones noticed the buggy first in high water along Alabama Avenue SW. Then she and her husband saw someone who had climbed to the roof of the cart and was signaling for help.
"He (Henry) started to go out to her, but the water was getting deep," said Jones, who called 911.
"Then the ambulance arrived, and my husband was called back in (by rescuers)."
Brewster Fire Department personnel rescued the 17-year-old girl who had been driving the horse-drawn buggy, which had been swept into the high water along the rural roadway.
According to Lt. Roger Carpenter of the Brewster Fire Department, the teen was sitting atop the buggy as rescuers arrived at the scene shortly after 5 p.m. She was not injured and was checked by an ambulance crew.
"I’m fine, just cold," the teen said as she exited the raft prior to being escorted into an ambulance parked a few feet from where water met the road.
A handful of medics had reached the girl with a motorized raft and escorted her to safety. She was trapped in a water-covered ditch along Alabama Avenue, between Smith Road SW and Wynncrest Street SW.
Carpenter said the depth of water where the girl’s buggy got stuck was just shy of 5 feet high. He was uncertain how she was drawn into the high water.
The temperature measured 28 degrees at 5 p.m. at the Akron-Canton Airport; however, strong winds were blowing in the area where the rescue occurred, making it feel much colder.
The horse pulling the buggy died.
"With cold temperatures and water, the muscles (of the horse) seize up. And it’s hard to overcome," the lieutenant said.
Jones recognized the girl as a neighbor who lives on a farm on Smith Road, and who routinely drove the horse-drawn buggy in the area.
Earlier Thursday, Brewster Fire issued a warning to motorists about high water on four southwest Stark County roads. Alabama Avenue between, Bellridge Avenue SW and Wynncrest Street was among the road closures.
Other areas shut down were Elton Street SW between Alabama Avenue SW and state Route 241; Mount Eaton just west of the village limits, and the south lane of state Route 93 north of U.S. Route 62.
"Anytime you see high, running water on a road, don’t attempt anything," Carpenter cautioned.
Rescuers from the Brewster Fire Department work to bring a 17-year-old girl to safety Thursday afternoon after her horse-drawn buggy became trapped in high water along Alabama Avenue SW in Sugar Creek Township. The girl was not injured, but the horse pulling the buggy died. (IndeOnline.com / Steven M. Grazier)