CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Chesterfield Fire Department has released new information surrounding the Chesterfield Firefighter/Paramedic, 41-year-old Alicia Monahan, who died while off-duty teaching a swift water rescue training course in the Nantahala River in North Carolina.
Monahan was a part of the Clover Hill Fire Station and provided more than 11 years of service to Chesterfield County Fire & EMS. During that time, she helped recover a body from the Swift Creek Reservoir in March.
“She was an experienced member of the department’s SCUBA Rescue Team and a member of the elite Virginia Helicopter Aquatics Rescue Team (VA HART), a joint initiative between the Virginia Army Air National Guard and Chesterfield County Fire & EMS,” Chesterfield Fire said in a release.
Chesterfield said Monahan was an active swift water rescue instructor and taught multiple classes during her off-duty time across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia with Rescue 3 International, a global organization that provides technical rescue training.
On Saturday, June 25, Monahan was training a group of fire and EMS professionals in swift water rescue techniques on the Nantahala River outside Bryson City, North Carolina. Chesterfield Fire said she was familiar with the area.
Warren Cabe, the Macon County Emergency Services Director in North Carolina, said those in the training course noticed Monahan was having a problem in the water. He said the first call came in at around 2:36 p.m. However, Chesterfield Fire said after conducting a safety briefing with the students, Monahan entered the water around 3 p.m. wearing full protective equipment and for reasons still unknown, became unresponsive.
8News has reached out to Chesterfield Fire for clarification on the timeline.
Chesterfield Fire said Monahan was carried a short distance downstream by currents, where she was removed from the river by individuals nearby who began resuscitation efforts.
Douglas Hardy, who works with the Paddle Inn Rafting Company, told 8News in previous reporting that he remembers the split-second decision he made to try and save Monahan.
“I didn’t know if it was a boy or girl at first,” he said. “I just saw a helmet floating and face down in the water and it was like I knew I only had like a matter of seconds to get to her.”
Hardy said he pulled Monahan onto his boat and then tried to give her CPR.
“Started doing the chest compressions and checking her out. I couldn’t see anything wrong, but she wasn’t breathing and I could see her pupils were dilated,” he said.
Despite the efforts of those at the scene, along with first responders and hospital staff, Chesterfield Fire said Monahan was pronounced dead a short time later at Swain Community Hospital in Bryson City.