NEW MADRID, Mo. (KFVS) - Cottonwood Park in New Madrid, Missouri closed this week after a woman got stuck in the muddy banks of the Mississippi River and was trapped there overnight.
The park and and it’s nearby riverbanks were underwater for months during this year’s historic flood, and officials said the mud is still two to three feet deep close to the water’s edge.
Phil Phuehler lives near the park and witnessed the rescue effort Saturday morning, August 17.
“It’s terrible and it’s unsafe for people to be right down by the river edge," Phuehler said. "That mud is just like quick sand it will suck you in.”
Phuehler knew something was up when he said he saw several police cruisers and then an ambulance drive into Cottonwood Park.
What he saw next were rescuers trying to free a woman who he said was up to her shoulders in mud.
“It was a long time before they could even get out to her because it was so muddy," Phuehler said. "Then they had to get a long rope to put her on this sled and pull her out.”
New Madrid Police Chief Joey Higgerson said it took six first responders to pull the trapped woman free and slowly get her into the ambulance
“You can see the mud in this area. This is as far as an ambulance can go. It was probably another tenth of a mile to where she was at,” Higgerson said.
The city of New Madrid has now closed the park to the public for safety reasons.
Chief Higgerson said it will stay closed until the mud dries so they can avoid another incident.
“It uses up a lot of resources. It takes a lot of time on top of the fact of the danger to the public," Higgerson said. "So that is kind of why we thought it best to close it down for now.”
The trapped woman told police she got stuck Friday, Aug. 16 and spent the entire night outside.
Phueler says he personally thanked the fisherman who found her and called 911.
“What shocked me the most is the surprise that the fisherman heard her faintly moan and cry for help," Phueler said. "It was just an act of God I think to save her.”
Chief Higgerson says the park closure times well with work staff with the US Army Corps of Engineers will be doing along the riverbanks.
“We can close the park, let things dry out, let the Corps get their work done,” Higgerson said. “And then hopefully in a month of so open it back up and we’ll be ready to go.”
Higgerson added that the observation deck and other paved areas of the New Madrid riverfront are still open.