by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:
ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - Late Wednesday night, Travis Ketchie and his four friends were wrapping up a great night of boating on High Rock Lake.
"We were coming back from watching fireworks at the Elks Club," Ketchie said.
Then, they saw what appeared to be a boat going under.
"We were shocked," Summer Curlee said. "We got up to it and all we saw was people -- the boat was gone."
"There were six of them in the water," Austin File said. "They were swimming, trying to get to our boat, and yelling for help."
File, a Liberty Fire Department volunteer firefighter, jumped in the water with his friend Michael Hodgson, a Salisbury firefighter. They pulled one woman to their boat who they said appeared to have difficulties keeping her head above water.
Ketchie dove in with a life jacket and rescued a man who yelled that he could not swim.
"You try to stay calm yourself, but in honesty, so much goes through your head at a time like that," he said.
Curlee and Brittaney Hill helped a 12-year-old girl and teenaged girl into the boat.
"I just grabbed their hand and told them to calm down, and pulled them around the boat," Hill said.
Officers with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission said all the people were rescued: four in Ketchie's boat and two, including the boat's driver, in another pontoon boat.
They said a man had heard the yelling and swam from the shore; his wife and son followed in the pontoon boat.
Sgt. Tony Sharum said the first boat was overloaded and that none of the people on board were wearing life jackets. He said the nose went under after a wave or wake washed over it, people scrambled to the back, and a part of the boat may have split before it all capsized.
Sharum said it's clear the victims have Ketchie and his friends to thank for their lives.
"If we wouldn't have showed up, who knows what would have happened, just five minutes later," Hill said.