COMSTOCK—A weekend trip to the Middle Loup River nearly ended in tragedy when two kids were pulled under the river’s current near the Comstock Dam on Saturday.
Robyn Sawyer, a mother of three and a nurse at an Omaha hospital, said she and some other families head to Comstock each year to camp and float down the river. She said they have never experienced issues before, checked the current, and made sure life jackets were dispersed before allowing their kids to play in the water.
The families had floated over the dam many times in the past but due to increased amounts of rain and extremely heavy currents, two kids were pulled under the water near the dam’s open gates. Fifteen-year-old Evan saw 10-year-old Brooke get pulled under and managed to bring her a tube and try to pull her up. However, it did not take long for Evan to get pulled under as well.
Floating in kayaks nearby, Caleb Stefka and Cody Scott realized what had happened and were quick to act. Ryan Douglass looked after Stefka’s young kids while he and Cody managed to pull the young girl to safety. Derek Bock managed to get a tube out to Evan and eventually all of the boys and Brooke made it to safety as emergency crews arrived.
Robyn Sawyer said she felt the presence of God as the kind strangers and her daughter’s boyfriend sacrificed everything for the kids in the blink of an eye.
“It could have been an absolutely horrific situation but thank God for those two guys who were willing to sacrifice for people they didn’t even know. I’m just so beyond, beyond thankful,” Sawyer said. “These guys truly are heroes. I would be planning a funeral if it were not for Caleb, Cody, Ryan, and Derek. I have no doubt.”
The power of social media has spread this story with many people calling the men heroes. When asked about receiving such high praise, Caleb Stefka emphasized the teamwork it took to pull the kids to safety and said he did what anyone would have done.
“I don’t really see myself as much of a hero. I just like to think I was in the right place at the right time and I just did what, honestly, any decent human being would have done,” Stefka said.
Originally from Comstock, Stefka now lives in Broken Bow with his wife and children. Stefka’s father-in-law Tim Galvan said Caleb has a great heart and that just two years ago Caleb underwent brain surgeries and has overcome those struggles.
“I feel like God’s hand was so present in so many ways that day with having those guys be there,” Sawyer said.
Robyn and Caleb have been able to connect and work through the traumatic experience for all who were involved.
“I really appreciate all the great things that everyone has said and I’m really, really grateful that story went so viral that it came full circle and it was able to get around to the family and put us into contact. That meant a lot to me,” Stefka said.
Robyn Sawyer told KCNI/KBBN she was blown away by Caleb’s “super human strength” as he, Cody, and Derek managed to fight through the river’s strong currents. She said the weekend was emotional for everyone and it was heartbreaking for her as a mother to see her son struggle.
“I am so grateful beyond words for the effort they put into that. I know that neither one of those kids would be alive today had it not been for Cody and Caleb being at the right place,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said Evan and Brooke are both doing well.