We often think about sports icons when we think of the “the perfect throw.” We think of a quarterback in the Super Bowl that threads the needle for the final touchdown to win the game, or the pitcher that slings the final strike to close out a perfect game. Undoubtedly, these are incredible moments. These moments take years of practice and sweat equity from the athletes before they’re in a position to make “the perfect throw.” However, there are moments in life where the perfect throw doesn’t happen on the field. It happens in the split seconds between life and death. This is that story…
It was a smoldering hot 4th of July day at Greers Ferry Lake in central Arkansas. Every recreation area around the lake was packed with visitors looking for a place to cool off.
Greers Ferry Lake Park Ranger, Sarah Wyatt, was patrolling on-foot with fellow Park Ranger Mary Nash in the Trouble Island area of the Dam Site Recreation Park on Greers Ferry Lake.
Wyatt is no stranger to busy holiday weekends, what she didn’t know is that there was a young man struggling to keep his head above water on the other side of the rocks she was walking on.
A small commotion on the other side of the rocks turned into screams for help from bystanders on the other side of Trouble Island’s boulders. Wyatt quickly scaled the rocks and traversed down the other side to see another young man swimming out to help his friend.
Perched on the rocks, Wyatt recalls seeing one struggling swimmer turn into two as the men fought to stay afloat. She could see they were panicking and without a life jacket or floatation device they could drown.
Ten minutes earlier, before dismounting her truck to walk the park, the six-year seasoned-veteran grabbed a Mustang Survival Rescue Stick, a tool she’d never used before and one she’d hoped would never have to.
The rescue stick is a wand tightly wrapped with a horseshoe shaped floatation device that inflates within seconds of contacting water.
Wyatt knew she had one shot at getting the rescue stick to the men. If the throw was too far or too short, they wouldn’t be able to reach the floatation device in time. This was a life-or-death moment.
Locked on her target, Ranger Wyatt who claims to be the most unathletic person she knows, hurled the stick towards them.
The stick flew through the air and landed right in front of the struggling swimmers, immediately inflating.
It was “the perfect throw!”
The young men used the flotation device to return safely to the rocks.
Wyatt’s split second decision and precise accuracy saved their lives. News of her heroic actions quickly spread throughout the Greers Ferry staff and up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District Office in Arkansas.
On July 28, 2023, Little Rock District Commander, Col. Damon Knarr, presented Wyatt with a Life Saving Water Safety Award, an impact Civilian Service Commendation Medal, and District Coin of Excellence for her efforts on Trouble Island that day.
Wyatt’s actions that day reflect great credit upon herself, the Greers Ferry Project Office, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.