$7 vests save 4 Richmonders stranded on James River - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

$7 vests save 4 Richmonders stranded on James River

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Four people out tubing on the James River Thursday afternoon got caught in the strong currents, flipping over in their tubes.

Three of them were able to swim to shore, but one woman had to be rescued. The group says it could have been worse. They could have died, if it weren't for their life vests.

An emergency call came in late in the day and rescue crews quickly responded to Pony Pasture to find all four people made it out alive.  

"We didn't really realize how strong it was or how in danger we were in until we were in there for a few minutes you can tread and tread and it'll wear you out," said Alissa Ashton, who was tubing for the first time and was rescued by a passerby.

"We started out a ways up, tubing and it was really mellow, but we got to the Z-dam and we went down. It flipped us all right off our tube and underwater. You get stuck under there and you can't really get up because the water's so strong," said Sallee Wood.

The Z-dam is a notorious spot on the James.

"It certainly could have been a lot worse, because as you know the Z-dam usually takes a life," said Richmond Fire and EMS Lt. Shawn Jones.

"I just underestimated that under current," said Ashton.

"We've never used life vests and all the signs say life vests are required today, so we just ran to Wal-mart and grabbed them. That $7 saved us because these kept popping us up from the under current," said Wood.

"Certainly this is a story we hope people learn from and listen to us when we talk about the river," said Lt. Jones.

The James River is at almost eight feet and still rising, due to all the recent rain and levels are expected to remain high over the weekend.

The group today said they will be back on the James, just not at the same spot.

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