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WEST MIFFLIN (KDKA) — Kennywood’s Raging Rapids ride can be a lot of fun, and apparently, the rapids are realistic enough to help train people who rescue victims from fast-moving rivers and streams.

Members of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Emergency Response Team performed dozens of water rescues at the ride Thursday. Fortunately, all simulated ones.

The “victims” in need of rescuing weren’t park-goers. In fact, the park was closed. Instead, they rescued other members of the team.

And they say this type of training is invaluable.

“Where we normally train is in live water that’s coming from a mountain and down into a river,” said Lt. Col. Larry Furlong. “We can’t control that. With this, if we have an incident, I can push a button and that’ll stop.”

Tethered to a rope, members took turns grabbing victims as they floated down a path that would normally hold rafts and riders.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

While the team can be called to perform actual rescues, much of their responsibility is to teach rescue techniques to swift water rescue teams across the state.

Kennywood says they were happy to help.

“We had seen a video in another state of a similar swift water training in a ride like the Raging Rapids, so it was an intriguing idea,” said park spokesperson Nick Paradise. “We always like to do whatever we can to assist our first responders.”

Members practiced using the current to propel them, so they have to exert less energy.

They also slowly, in a group, carried a “mock victim” to shore. All techniques they’d use during a rescue in a Pennsylvania stream or river.

And while Thursday was all serious on the Raging Rapids, soon enough, smiling park-goers will be out on the water.

David Highfield