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Kayaker, friends help rescue teen in swollen Patapsco near Finksburg

16-year-old caught on debris in swift water in Carroll County

Story and Photos by Phil Grout

11:27 PM EDT, September 7, 2011

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Quick response by high school friends and a nearby kayaker likely saved the life of a 16-year-old Carrollton teen who was pulled from the swollen Patapsco River during the heavy rains of Sept. 7 at the village of Patapsco near Finksburg.

Three teens — David Rugemer, Tyler Hartman and Abraham Ramos — had been floating on the river, but at the confluence of the Patapsco and Aspen Run, the current became intense.

All three swimmers were pulled toward the south bridge across the river. Tyler and Abraham were swept under the bridge, but David became lodged on a pile of flotsam collecting around a bridge pylon.

At that point the youth gasped, "I can't breathe," then the force of the current pulled him partially under the surface, leaving only his hand grasping for anything solid.

With that, Tyler and Abraham were able to swim back to their friend. Tyler grasped David and lifted his head out of the water.

At the same time, Dale Griffiths, of Patapsco, had just finished a kayak run of what had become a swift-moving series of rapids. He maneuvered his kayak to the boys and the three were able to wrench 16-year-old David out of the water and lay his body on the kayak, where he caught his breath after Griffiths gave him a sharp slap on the back.

Two onlookers, Ronald Markline and Craig Dell, leaned over the bridge siding and hoisted David to safety where he was joined by his two friends — and one new one, Dale Griffiths.

All three teens are juniors at Westminster High School. Griffiths lives just beyond the bridge in the former home of the late Maurice and Vivian Stephan.

Thirty nine years ago, the Patapsco raged even stronger than Wednesday afternoon as Hurricane Agnes took out the bridge and the nearby Stephan's automotive repair garage.

Still, Wednesday's rain and river surge was no slouch — county officials issued a warning in the afternoon that road and flash flooding was expected.

Much of the band of rain produced up to 2 inches of rainfall per hour rates, and some places were expected to see 5 to 6 inches.

In Sykesville, Piney Run Park was closed and officials monitored the lake's water levels.