Woman rescued in Little Patuxent in incident-prone stretch of river

June 19, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

From snakebites and assaults to overdoses and water-related injuries, Howard County rescue workers are all too familiar with the stretch of the Little Patuxent River behind the Historic Savage Mill.

About 9 p.m. Thursday, about 40 county firefighters spent an hour and a half rescuing a 20-year-old woman, who slipped off a rock and was carried 150 to 200 feet in the rain-swollen river before grabbing hold of a rock.

Zahra Safavian, who was uninjured and refused treatment, told firefighters that she was transient and had no home. She had gone to the river with five friends, said Battalion Chief Donald Howell of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

Firefighters found the woman in a stretch of river about 80-feet wide in the Foundry Street and Gorman Road area, Mr. Howell said. The rescue was made more difficult because of the darkness and the increased flow of the water, he said.

The current had increased because of afternoon thunderstorms and the river was 4 feet to 5 feet deep -- 2 feet to 3 feet higher than normal, Mr. Howell said.

Although it was the first such incident of 1994, Mr. Howell said that county firefighters typically respond to six to 12 accidents each year in the area known as Savage Rocks.

Despite the dangers, the area is a popular hangout once the weather turns warm.

Visitors swim in the river's green-tinted pools, ride the usually mild rapids, rest on the rocks to catch some sun. Many also jump from a 30-foot rock formation into a pool of water 6 feet to 7 feet deep.

Adding to the danger of the river is the consumption of alcohol by adults and teen-agers, authorities say. The Historic Savage Mill Trail is strewn with empty beer cans and bottles. Some visitors carry coolers, ignoring the black sign with white letters that reads, "No alcohol permitted" and "No glass containers."

The county parks and recreation department does not prohibit visitors from fishing, swimming or diving in the area. But officials say they discourage groups of people from playing around the water.

"We don't have posted safety rules and regulations," said John Byrd, chief of the Howard County Bureau of Parks. "Once they go off the trail and enter the river, we can't be responsible for that. We discourage a lot of activity down there."

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