That Sinking Feeling

A North Carolina bowfisherman targeting carp in a lake shrunken by this year’s drought considers himself lucky to be alive after spending more than 15 hours trapped nearly up to his neck in quicksand-like mud.

Donald Meeks, 68, of Durham figured that big rough fish would be easy to shoot with his bow in the shallow waters of Falls Lake on Monday morning. Months of dry weather in the region had exposed shoreline that usually lay submerged, attracting the adventurous bow-angler.

He figured conditions were perfect to arrow a few big bottom-feeders.Mud

But, he didn’t expect the mud.

Meeks left a friend, David Minshew, waiting in his car Monday morning as he set out with his bowfishing setup to investigate the lake. Hours later, as the sun was setting, Meeks hadn’t returned.

The Raleigh-Durham News Observer reported yesterday that when a passing motorist stopped to see if Minshew was stranded around 7 p.m., he used the driver’s cell phone to report his friend missing.

Durham County sheriff’s deputies searched unsuccessfully for several hours, before a North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter with thermal-imaging equipment was dispatched to the scene.

With assistance from the air, Meeks was finally discovered at 2:11 a.m. Tuesday, buried nearly up to his neck in muck and surrounded by three-foot grass.

The News Observer reported that rescuers almost ended up like Meeks when they first stepped from their boats into the mud. When they couldn’t extricate the beleaguered bowman with a rope, a deputy who lives nearby used his all-terrain vehicle to get close, then created a plywood walkway to Meeks.

Finally, a full two hours after discovering his location, authorities were able to free Meeks from his muddy confinement.

“I stepped into a cavity,” Meeks later told a local TV station. “In a matter of two or three minutes, I knew I was trapped, and there was no way in the world that I was going to get out.”

He said the mud acted like a vacuum, sucking him deeper with each move.

“If I wanted to lift my left leg, I’d have to bear down on my right leg and that leg would sink deeper,” he said.

So, did the near-tragic incident sour him on bowfishing?

No, Meeks said. But from now on, he’ll do it from a boat.