Heroes don’t wear capes, they wear badges

Friends and Boy Scouts Stevie Bridwell and Wayne Mangham saved a 15-year-old from drowning in the Buffalo River in Arkansas. Photos courtesy Brandi Mangham

Scouts save drowning teen

By Juanice Gray | Editor

Heroes don’t wear capes, they wear badges, specifically, Boy Scout badges. Scouting training prompted two local teens to assist in a water rescue while vacationing in Arkansas. Thanks to their quick action, another teen was saved from drowning.

This article published in the June 10, 2021, print edition

Stevie Bridwell with Troop 40 of Doyline and Wayne Mangham with Troop 211 of Ringgold and their families were headed out Monday, May 24 on vacation when a series of events placed them in the right place at the right time. Wayne’s mother, Brandi Mangham, said, “We were late getting started for the day of floating and swimming and then our friends had a flat tire. This was all God’s plan though. We get the tire, took it to get fixed and headed to the Buffalo River in north Arkansas.”

Skills learned during Boy Scouts, including canoeing last year, enabled Wayne Mangham and Stevie Bridwell to rescue a drowning 15-year-old.

Their original plan was to launch at Tyler’s Bend, but Wayne’s father, Snooks Mangham, decided to launch instead at Grinder’s Ferry. The location is one of the deepest sections of the river and on this particular day, was only slightly below flood stage with strong current. “Again, part of God’s plan,” Brandi said.

As the group was unloading their vehicle, Brandi noticed a lady and two teens by the main channel near the water. “I thought nothing of it,” she said. “Suddenly, I hear her screaming, ‘He can’t swim! He can’t swim! Please help him!”

Brandi said the lady dialed 911 while, without thinking and without a life jacket, she and their friend, Travis Cheatwood, jumped in the water. “As I am swimming out to the area, the boy was being swept down the river. I lost sight of him. He went under from the currents,” she said. “I screamed ‘Where is he? Where is he? Finally I see his hands come up and my boys in a canoe going to him.”

Snooks said he saw the boy go under several times, once for nearly a minute.

Wayne Mangum and Stevie Bridwell have been Scouts for years. To learn more about Boy Scouts, contact their Troop Masters.

Stevie and Wayne, both 17, threw the 15-year-old a life jacket, got him to the boat and safely to the bank. “Thanks to them he is alive,” Brandi said. Thanks to Travis, I am alive.” The teen wasn’t the only rescue.

Brandi had gotten caught in an eddy and was unable to get out. She said she was weak, tired, cold and a little disoriented. “Thankfully I was able to get myself on my back and Travis was able to get to the bank to rescue me with another canoe,” she said.

“Stevie and Wayne acted with heroism, honor, integrity and valor that day. They acted without sense of self or hesitation. To say we are proud is an understatement,” Brandi said.

When the emergency responders and park rangers showed up, they complimented Stevie and Wayne on their level headed response.

From left are Scout Wayne Mangum, his father, Snooks, mother, Brandi and brother, Joe.

“Without Boy Scouts training, things could have ended badly,” said friend Lacy Dalme.

Brandi attributes the happy ending to the leaders and role models these young men had throughout their Boy Scouting years. “You all have taught them well.”

Stevie started in Scouting as a Cub Scout and Wayne when he was around 12. Stevie’s father, Steven Bridwell, was also a Scout as a child and continued the tradition with his son.

Scouting offers training and badges in swimming, canoeing, first aid and emergency response, all attributing to their actions that day. Brandi said it was all God’s plan, from the Scouting training to them being there at that exact time and place.

“There were other people there, but no one else had a boat,” she said. “There was no doubt He put us there. That boy, who also had cerebral palsy, would definitely have drowned.”

Following the rescue, the families, including Stevie, above, enjoyed their time on the river, but at a different, shallower and calmer location.

Troop 211 Scout Master is Carl Bolin and Troop 40’s are John Jordan and the elder Bridwell. To become a member of Boy Scouts contact Bolin at 465-6477 or Jordan at 465-1457. Scouts must be 11 years old or have completed the fifth grade.