“When I see something, I will say and do something.” At approximately 12:30 pm Central on Monday, September 28, the old historic paddle boat sternwheeler, Gambler, was heading downriver on a trip from Cincinnati to the Mississippi. It was at Ohio River mile marker #507, close to our #15 dredge, when our dredge master Jason Risley noticed the boat was in trouble. “I started watching it, and something did not look right. We thought we should go check on them because the boat was not positioned right”, commented Risley. Jason and Scott Devillez from our Rockport Dry Dock quickly jumped into the Jon Boat and went to help. By the time they reached the Gambler, it had already sunk. Jason and Scott saw two individuals injured and bleeding in the water where the Gambler went down. Jason said, “My first thought was to ask them ‘ How many are we looking for?’” Thankfully, they were able to pull the two seriously injured crew members on board the Jon Boat to safety. Their safety training kicked in and Scott and Jason administered emergency first aid procedures and rushed them to the Grandview boat ramp where Emergency Personnel were waiting to transport the injured to the hospital.
According to a Facebook post, Gambler Co-Captain, Mark Heslep, posted, “She went down near Lewisport, IN, upriver from Owensboro, KY, at 1:31 p.m. EST on Monday. Low freewall at the stern caused the engine room to flood. She went over in a heartbeat.“ He continued, “(We) were in the wheelhouse at the time and were able to help each other climb out. A crew downriver launched their lifeboat and got to us in minutes.” His post ended with,” Lucky to be alive.” The Gambler was embarked on a 1,347 mile, two-river adventure that was destined for mile marker #830 on the Mississippi River. The only people on board were Co-Captain Heslep and the Gambler’s owner & Co-Captain, Gary Lusso.
No one knows how they will react in an emergency situation, but Jason and Scott didn’t wait to take action, and saved two lives in the process. It’s not every day you see an old, historic paddleboat floating down the Ohio, especially one that is in danger and sinking. Jason trusted his instincts and with Scott’s help, hurriedly reached the sunken boat just in time to make a huge difference in Co-Captain Heslep and Lusso’s lives. “One word comes to mind when I think about what Jason & Scott did that day: Amazing”, commented Ken Mulzer, Jr., President of Mulzer Family of Companies. “We are extremely proud of the quick, lifesaving measures they took in a very serious situation on the water.”