Friday, April 4, 2003

Tree falls on N.Ky. boaters

The Associated Press

SOMERSET, Ky. - A Northern Kentucky man endured a two-mile swim in the chilly waters of Lake Cumberland as he searched for help when his wife was trapped under a fallen tree.

Bernie Capal, 38, of Fort Wright was with his wife and son on a boat in Lake Cumberland on Sunday morning when a 50-foot tall tree crashed down. The tree struck Vickie Millikin-Capal, 38, pinning her at the bottom of the boat and trapping son Spencer, 7, under the boat seat with its canopy.

"We didn't hear the tree falling," Capal said, adding that he doesn't know what caused the tree to collapse. "It wasn't windy."

Capal pulled the tree off his son and shifted most of the trunk's weight off his wife's body, he said.

Water was seeping into the boat, so Capal stopped pulling the tree.

While his son sat crying on a nearby rock, Capal stripped off his outer clothing and started swimming the cold waters of the lake to get help at a nearby house. Snow flurries had fallen, and temperatures were in the mid-30s.

"From the moment I got in the water, I felt God took over," he said.

Meanwhile, a trapped Millikin-Capal spoke to her son about her childhood and got him to stop crying, Capal said.

"She thought she was going to die - and that she was spending the last few minutes with her son," Capal said.

By the time Capal returned, a man named Russell was at the accident scene and had called 911. Members of the Somerset-Pulaski County Rescue Squad, Somerset Fire/EMS Department and Mount Victory firefighters arrived shortly.

Millikin-Capal was transported by helicopter to University of Kentucky Medical Center, where she is recovering from serious injuries.

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