Drowning Near Pleasant Hope Leads To Water Rescue Invention

Cody McKellips says he remembers just feeling helpless. 

"He was in raging floods, and our department was trying its best," McKellips says. 

McKellips was working as a volunteer firefighter at Walnut Grove during the after-Christmas flooding in 2015, when he and other responders watched a man float too far away to rescue and drown. It was on Pomme De Terre lake, north of Pleasant Hope. 

"We had a serious lack of equipment, we didn't have a lot at all." 

McKellips says it was a terrible feeling. 

" I think it had a lot of mental effect, not only on the community but on the department as well...I said after that, I would do something to prevent it next time. And this device could prevent it." 

"This device" is a new water rescue tool.

McKellips developed the device along with his father, Dr. Tom McKellips, and a friend, Matt Halaschack. Dr. Tom McKellips, teaches at Missouri State University now, and used to fight fires with the Springfield fire department.

Here's how the tool works: 

It's a tube that uses firefighter's air packs and launches a flotation device more than 200 feet. 

McKellips says the team developed the tool with several strategies in mind. 

First, it had to be cheap for any department to make. McKellips says they wanted to keep it under $200. 

"We wanted to make it where any department can actually build this on their own, if they don't actually want to pay someone or pay us," he explains.

Secondly, they had to think about materials. McKellips says a lot of the materials are recycled. And, the air packs that fuel the device are already on hand in any department. 

The flotation device attached to the rope is specially designed, and was created after much thought and study. 

While they are working on getting a patent, it'll be open source. McKellips also plans to make the blueprints public. 

So why not keep the plans secret, and possibly make some money off of the invention?

McKellips says it's not about the profit. 

"My dad...he did some research, and we found that some departments out there had little to no money. One of my purposes in engineering is to give back to the people."

And that, he says, should be the true motivation behind inventions. 

"Sciences aren't necessarily for making money. Sciences are also for helping people and preserving life."

They'll be donating the first prototype to the Pleasant Hope fire department. 

The group has created a nonprofit called Global Rescue Systems to fund the project. They have also set up a Go Fund Me to pay for the project. 



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