CLEVER, Mo. –- A local fire department is now better equipped to perform water rescues, thanks to an invention from a Missouri college student.
It was a cold and wet morning in December, when 21-year-old Cody McKellips witnessed a tragic water rescue-turned deadly. He was volunteering at the Walnut Grove Fire Department, which didn’t have the proper equipment to save the person’s life. So, McKellips decided to invent the equipment, calling it “Last Chance.”
“Whenever we release this valve here, it will launch a flotation device up to 240 feet in swift water flooding situations,” McKellips said.
It’s something Cody McKellips and his volunteer crew desperately needed in December 2015. The man got caught in flash flooding on Pomme de Terre River, hanging on to the guardrail, but they just couldn’t reach him.
Now the University of Missouri Science and Technology student, along with two others, decided no one should die because of lacking rescue equipment again. McKellips worked to make his once 300-pound invention, now weighing 35 pounds, accessible to the average volunteer department.
“We are going to start in Missouri, and then as soon as we get the funding and capabilities to do so, we’re going to try to supply the entire United States,” he said.
They’re starting with the Clever Fire Department. Clever Fire Chief Dozer Keithly didn’t waste any time mounting the rescue device on the team’s service truck.
“Sometimes the rivers get pretty wide. All we had before this was a throw rope,” Keithly said.
He also knows what it’s like to work with limited equipment in an emergency situation.
“This last year when it flooded so much, we had three water rescues,” he said. “One deadly water rescue.”
Friday, those used to giving help, are getting some help themselves.
“We hope to never use it, but if we need it, we’ve got it now,” Keithly said.
McKellips couldn’t agree more.
“It makes me feel better driving home everyday knowing that more people around me are safe,” he said.
The team is always improving the invention, with two other models in the works. The second version can launch up to 400 feet. The third version can launch up to 700 feet.