WEST MILTON — Even on a day off, a first responder is always on the job.
When duty called, Deputy Fire Chief Dallas Davis and his 8-year-old daughter Brenna stepped up last summer on his day off to help a mother and daughter in need who were kayaking on the Stillwater River in West Milton.
Robin Smedley, of Arcanum, was so grateful and impressed with Davis and Brenna’s help on Sunday, Aug. 15, she reached out to now retired Fire Chief Brad Jones to praise their life-saving efforts.
During Jones’ retirement ceremony at Sidney Fire Station No. 1 on Oct. 16., he recognized Brenna with a letter commendation for her good work in helping her father rescue Smedley and her daughter Cassidy Siler-Smith, of Hamilton.
“Mr. Davis is a hero in our eyes, and I love that he will be publicly recognized for it!” Smedley said in an email.
“And for 8 years old, that little girl (Brenna) was a hero too,” she later told the Sidney Daily News when telling her rescue story.
The incident took place on a Sunday afternoon when the Davis family went canoeing on the Stillwater River in West Milton to enjoy time together. It was Brenna’s first time alone in her own canoe on that day, Davis said. After a certain point, Davis and Brenna went on further down the river while his wife Bridget and their two older sons went to get her vehicle to pick them up. It was about a quarter of a mile down the river, Davis said, when they came upon Smedley and Siler-Smith when they were clearly in distress.
Brenna recalled first seeing the women earlier in the day after they first helped her as her parents were launching their canoes into the river a short ways off.
“In the beginning when we started kayaking with my family, I got stuck, and they saw me and stopped and got me out of the rock, and then they got stuck in that rock and then we went farther down the river and that’s what happened,” Brenna said. “It was the same people that helped us; they looked familiar.”
Smedley said they ended up on the river longer than expected, after being denied access to exit the river at Barefoot Canoe private property, due to the COVID-19 pandemic because they were not in rental canoes. There wasn’t much room in her kayak, and so other than a small package of cookies, she left the rest of her snacks in her vehicle.
“I am 62 years old, and pre-diabetic,” Smedley first explained when talking about the how hard she and her daughter worked to move along on the very low river water that day.
“Due to how hard we had to paddle to get unstuck from the rocks, and the heat, we became exhausted, and decided to get out of the kayaks and walk them the rest of the way to the exit. I did not realize my sugar had severely dropped until I climbed out of the kayak, and was too weak and shaking so much to even stand up to walk the kayaks,” she said.
“My daughter realized something was wrong with me, and she said my hands were blue. We knew we were unable to get out of the river without help, and she called 911, and told them I was having a medical emergency, and we needed help,” she continued.
Smedley said although she is not a very religious person, she does believe in God and as she was praying for help and her daughter was calling 911, right then Davis showed up. A Vandalia couple also helped Davis over the following two hours it took to get the women off of the river.
“We can not say enough about Mr. Davis coming to our rescue that day. He was so calm and assertive, giving the other two people directions on what to do, as they were asking for his advice. His 8-year-old daughter, Brenna, was also awesome, as she had to go after his kayak when it floated away, and securely held onto it the whole way,” Smedley said.
Davis said Brenna followed directions very well and and did a good job pulling his canoe and equipment along.
“I’m very proud of my daughter. For a lot of adults, that is a scary event, and she was strong and was very helpful and did a lot of good things throughout. It’s definitely something when you are trying to help save folks and, I guess for a lack of better words, you don’t have to worry about your daughter,” Davis said of Brenna.
“I told my dad they needed help. She was on the stones and (I wondered) why they were out of their kayaks,” Brenna said. “It was kind of scary, and at the same time it wasn’t because my dad is a firefighter.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.