REED BINGHAM STATE PARK – Wayne “Bud” Fuller, the manager of Reed Bingham State Park, recently received an award from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for his bravery during an emergency response to an overturned vessel incident in April.
Fuller was awarded the Park Ranger Bravery Award last week during the 2022 Annual Friends of Georgia State Parks Conference hosted at Linear Islands in Gainesville, Georgia.
“It was a huge honor to get that, but I think the main focus of this whole thing is just how well the local emergency EMA departments responded to it,” he said.
He continued, “The sheriff’s departments, our state law enforcement and state park employees were all able to come together to make that happen because I would have not been able to have that success by doing that by myself.”
Fuller has been an employee with the Georgia DNR for nine years and a park manager at RBSP for five years.
“I have really enjoyed my time here and how much community involvement from both Cook and Colquitt County has made this a very positive location,” he shared.
During his employment, he has worked at numerous Georgia State Parks including Kolomoki Mounds, Stephen C. Foster, Florence Marina, Providence Canyon and Panola Mountain.
Fuller explained the April rescue community effort in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
“I received a call from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office that we had an overturned vessel just down from Red Roberts on the Little River north of the park,” Fuller said.
According to a Georgia Department of Natural Resources press release, the call relayed that a visitor reported an overturned vessel, a man was on shore yelling for help and a woman and small child were holding onto a tree in the middle of flooded waters.
Fuller was already en route to where the park’s boat was located at the time of the call.
“I was able to hook up that vessel and take it to the Red Roberts boat ramp. I also had another park employee with me as well,” he added.
Upon arrival at the boat ramp, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office was already on site.
Fuller, Cook County Sheriff Doug Hanks and RBSP employee Tom Daugherty got into the boat and responded to the scene.
Due to heavy rainfall, the Little River had risen to dangerously high levels.
“During April, we received a lot of rain, so what would have been a normal pattern kind of got sideways for those guests. The water level was high, which caused a lot of current from several different directions,” Fuller said.
The vessel overturned in a convenient location where the grandmother and the approximately 7-year-old grandson could hold onto a tree that was half-submerged in the water.
The emergency responders were initially unable to complete a head-on rescue due to the strong currents.
“We passed them for about 20 yards, turned the vessel around, and came right back to them,” Fuller explained. “We were able to pull both of them out of the water successfully.”
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game Warden Aaron Powell was able to launch his vessel and recover their overturned kayak.
Although the incident did not involve the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, Fuller expressed his gratitude to the Colquitt County law enforcement too.
“We want to thank the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Department and the leadership in Colquitt County. They have helped us with several projects. We know we’re probably the farthest location they have to respond to, but we want to thank them for their presence in Reed Bingham State Park and let them know that their presence is noticed.
Reed Bingham State Park is located at 542 Reed Bingham Road in Adel.
To learn more about the park, please visit www.gastateparks.org/ReedBingham.