Norwell fire chief says rescue of three 14-year-olds trapped in swamp took time to pull off

Norwell Fire Chief T. Andrew Reardon says he is proud of his department’s rescue of three 14-year-old boys who were trapped for hours in a swamp in chest-high water Tuesday night.

The combination of high water and low-hanging tree branches made it impossible for the rescuers to deploy an airboat, Reardon said today. And an airborne rescue by the Coast Guard wasn’t an option, because the boys were near high-tension power lines, so the Coast Guard could not safely deploy a helicopter with a rescue basket, he said.

Instead, four Norwell firefighters donned survival suits and churned their way some 200 yards though the water in sub-freezing temperatures, using a searchlight from a hovering State Police helicopter as their guide.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Reardon said Norwell police had been searching for the teens on Tuesday afternoon and by 7:20 p.m. had finally learned the trio had entered the swampy woods between School and Mount Blue streets. Police asked firefighters to go in and bring the children out, Reardon said. He said all three teens and the four tired firefighters were out of the woods around 11 p.m.

Reardon said the firefighters waded through water that was often up to their chests, a physically exhausting task, until they reached the boys.

He said firefighters were relieved to find that all three were coherent.

“They had gone and found a bit of dry land,’’ Readon said of the teens. “But these kids were soaked. They actually had common sense to stay together and stay warm.’’

At that point, he said, the firefighters had the teens put on survival suits, and follow them back out through the swamp to waiting ambulances. The teens had cuts and bruises but were otherwise unharmed, Reardon said.

“The good news is we have three little guys who are alive and well today,’’ Reardon said in a telephone interview. “It’s a good way to start the new year when you have a rescue like this. Last night’s temperatures were not conducive with this having a positive outcome, being lost in the middle of a swamp. I’m very proud of my people.’’

He added of the teens: “When they are my age, they will have a funny story to tell their grandkids.’’