VALLEY FALLS, W.Va. - A Keyser native who works as a superintendent at Valley Falls State Park in West Virginia is credited with saving a young girl from drowning in the rain-swollen Tygart River on Aug. 6.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
@lizbeavers1
VALLEY FALLS, W.Va. - A Keyser native who works as a superintendent at Valley Falls State Park in West Virginia is credited with saving a young girl from drowning in the rain-swollen Tygart River on Aug. 6.
Brett Harshbarger, son of Rick and Christa Harshbarger and a 2007 graduate of Keyser High School, says he was making his rounds at the state park, located in Marion County, when he began hearing shouting.
A visitor to the park who had also heard the shouting told Harshbarger he thought someone had slipped into the river, which was swift and high due to the heavy rains that had previously caused flooding in several areas of the county.
“I ran down to the area, and saw a couple of people … and thought I saw a girl down below,” Harshbarger recalls.
His only thought was to get to her as fast as he could in order to avoid a tragedy.
According to Harshbarger, it appeared the 16-year-old girl had slipped on some rocks on the river bank. The rocks were wet and slippery from the recent rains, plus that particular day had been damp as well.
Harshbarger describes that particular area of the Tygart as “a whitewater rapid-type area” that is “very treacherous,” and the young girl was clinging to a rock too far away for him to reach.
Luckily, she was still conscious and by holding onto the rock was able to keep her head above water.
With some park visitors willing to stay with her until he could return, Harshbarger went to his truck to get a throw-bag with about 75 feet of rope, while the only other staff member at the park called 911.
“I had myself and two of the bystanders hold on one end of the rope,” he said. “I threw her the bag. She caught it, and we drug her probably ten or 15 feet back through the river to the bank and were able to get her out of the water.
“She was only in the water five minutes, but that water was still cold,” he said, noting that she was beginning to go in and out of consciousness as they dragged her through the water.
“She also had got beat up pretty bad going down through those rapids,” he said.
Once they had the young lady safely on dry land, she complained of pain in her head and side - signaling the possibility of a spinal injury.
Harshbarger says he and six or eight helpers loaded her onto a backboard and placed it on a makeshift sled, which they carried up over the trees and rocks and through the thick brush in order to get her to where an ambulance awaited.
HealthNet flew the girl to Ruby Memorial Hospital.
Harshbarger told the News Tribune this week he has not been able to contact the girl to see how she is doing.
“I just hope that she is doing ok and recovering well,” he said.
He wants to make sure he expresses his appreciation to all the first responders, EMS crew, and law enforcement who responded to the remote incident.
“We are out of the way a good ways, but they were here in about 20 minutes,” he said.
“This was my first rescue in the two plus years I have been at Valley Falls State Park,” he added.  
As superintendent at Valley Falls, Harshbarger’s usual duties include maintenance, law enforcement on the park, payroll, budgets, answering phones, and booking different facility rentals.
Harshbarger is a graduate of Potomac State College and West Virginia University.