Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'Laughing situation' turns into fight for life

What started out as a lark at Cold Springs Reservoir near Hermiston on October 21, 1972, turned into a desperate two-hour struggle for life when a 13-year-old Hermiston boy became trapped in quicksand.

David McCune and two friends, Junior Demery, 14, and Duck Stubbs, 12, were camping at the reservoir and playing at being stuck in the mud. McCune said the day went instantly from a laughing situation to panic and tears when he discovered he was stuck and sinking in quicksand, and there was no apparent means of escape. Demery and Stubbs returned to their campsite for a rope, which they put around McCune’s chest and started pulling. But the rope broke, and by that time McCune had sunk to his chest in mud and a foot of icy water. He figured he “might be a goner.”

One of the boys went for help. Al Hartley, an Oregon City truck driver, was camping at the reservoir with his family. Hartley found Arnold Weber and H.T. Burns, both Hermiston farmers, and loaded his pickup with material to rescue McCune. Two Hermiston pheasant hunters, Steve Broyles and Eugene Hale, of the Navy Bombing Range at Boardman, also joined the rescue effort.

Hartley dug down around McCune’s legs, desperately trying to free the boy from the mud. Using belts around McCune’s legs and chest, the men pulled and tugged and finally yanked him free.

After two hours stuck in the quicksand, McCune was so cold, exhausted and frightened he couldn’t walk. He was taken to Arnold Weber’s home, where he soaked in a warm bath. McCune returned to school Tuesday with no ill effects.

McCune’s pals returned to Cold Springs Sunday night for another campout and invited him along. His reply: "No, thanks."

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