Community heroes prove heroic in Harrison’s rescue

Published 6:58 am Monday, October 7, 2019

Just imagine the fear that was going through Ricky Harrison’s mind as he woke up Friday morning.

Not only did he not know where he was, his name or how he got there, but he also woke up blind. Just imagine the fear.

In a moment of desperation, Harrison picked up a phone he had not likely used in months. Without his sight, he managed to dial 911, hoping there was help on the other end of the call.

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After a few moments of talking with dispatchers in Madison Parish, his call was forwarded to dispatchers in Warren County. At the end of that phone call was Vicksburg-Warren 911 dispatcher Paige Cook.

For the next 3.5 hours, Cook talked to Harrison, working to comfort his fears and to figure out where he was. GPS coordinates from the phone placed him along the Mississippi River but were unable to give exact coordinates.

For those hours, Harrison said a few words but was at times unable to talk.

“He kept crying for help,” she said. “He kept going in and out like he couldn’t really talk to me. He stayed with me the whole 3.5 hours. I would ask him questions over and over again, trying to get some information.

“He kept telling me that he couldn’t see, that he knew he was in a tent, and that’s all I could get from him,” she said.

As she talked — and mostly listened — first responders started searching the river.

He was found off of the river, on a sandbar in a slough, well out of sight from traffic along the river. There was no telling how long he had been there, but he was equipped to survive. He was found in a tent, with fishing nets, two firearms and cooking equipment. But, as rescuers arrived, they found him weak and without food or fresh water.

“He was semi-conscious, extremely emaciated, and appeared to have been there for some time,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “He was in a makeshift tent with quite a bit of survival gear and two kayaks, one with supplies and the other he was traveling in.”

Once he was loaded on the sheriff’s office boat, he was raced to LeTourneau landing, where he was then airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he is listed in good condition.

At the time he was found, there was nothing giving rescuers any information about Harrison’s name or where he was from. Only after Pace used a rabies dog tag found in Harrison’s belongings was Pace able to learn where Harrison was from and contact information for family members.

Pace also learned Harrison left Little Village, Ark. in May, when he put two kayaks into the river. For months he left his family and former life behind and we may never know why. But that is not important today. Today, Harrison is alive and his family is thankful.

Harrison is alive today because of first responders in Warren County and their commitment to not give up until he was found.

The call and search lasted for hours and thanks to their efforts, Friday turned out to be a rescue rather than a recovery.

Harrison’s family at some point will be reunited with their loved one and it is only due to the effort, compassion and dedication to duty for those who serve and protect our community each day.