Ohiopyle river guides recognized by Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
If not for the efforts of two local whitewater rafting experts, Arnetta Johnson and Raecyne Bechtold would likely have been — literally — dead in the water last June.
Luckily, Eric Martin and Patrick Nolan McCarty saw the women, grabbed two single-person kayaks and launched into the Youghiogheny River near Ohiopyle, rescuing Johnson and Bechtold and earning recognition from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh.
The pair was whitewater rafting down the Yough on June 26, 2017, when their raft overturned, flowed past the take-out point and became stuck at a bridge pier in the middle of a fast, swollen river, according to commission investigators. Johnson, 55, was partially submerged and hanging on the underside of the raft as Bechtold, 45, lay on top of it.
Martin, who owns outdoor tour company Wilderness Voyageur and McCarty, its executive director, spotted the women and launched into the river without safety gear.
Martin paddled over to Johnson, who grabbed onto his kayak as the raft dislodged from the bridge pier. McCarty paddled around to the front of the raft — which was now headed toward a 20-foot waterfall — and used his kayak to slow the raft and guide it to the riverbank where Bechtold reached safety.
Those selected for recognition by the commission are awarded the Carnegie Medal, and they, or their survivors, become eligible for financial considerations, including one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.
To date, more than 10,000 medals have been awarded, the recipients selected from more than 90,000 nominees. About 20 percent of the medals are awarded posthumously. Awardees are announced four times a year, following meetings of the commission.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, email@example.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.