Published on July 28, 2022

Booneville Angler Grateful to RN for Saving Him

Jimmy Hughes and Courtney BarnesTUPELO, Mississippi—Jimmy Hughes recently stopped by North Mississippi Medical Center Women’s Hospital in Tupelo to show his appreciation to Courtney Barnes, a registered nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

On the evening of July 9, the 73-year-old Booneville resident was fishing by himself at Lake Mohawk, located between Ripley and Booneville in Tippah County. “My bait got hooked on my trolling motor,” Hughes says. “When I tried to get it loose, my little john boat flipped over.”

He was in water over his head about 15 yards from the bank. “At first I didn’t call for help because I didn’t want to make a scene,” he says. He tried treading water and holding on to the boat’s handles.

“I wasn’t making any progress,” he says. “My clothes got heavy, and my feet felt like concrete blocks. I could feel myself tiring.” Finally, Hughes called out for help.

Barnes, who lives on Lake Mohawk, was sitting with friends on some nearby park benches. Her friend, Kristi George, thought she heard something, but they couldn’t quite make it out. “Then we realized he was saying, ‘help!’” Barnes says. Without hesitation, Barnes sprang into action.

“She jumped in, swam to me and pulled me to the bank,” Hughes says. “She saved me.”

“By the time I laid eyes on him, he had started sinking. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified,” Barnes says. “But you don’t even think, you just go. I’m just thankful we got to him in time.”

Hughes sat by a fire with Barnes and her friends while he dried off, called his family and regained his composure.

“I tried to give her a reward for what she did for me, but she wouldn’t hear of it,” Hughes says. “She said, ‘just come by and see us every now and then.’”

And that’s just what Hughes has done. “I tell my wife, ‘I’m going to see my little friend,’” he says.

The admiration is mutual. “We have new friends,” Barnes says. “They are the sweetest people.”

Hughes has been fishing several times since that day, but now he puts his life jacket on as soon as he gets out of his truck. “I thank the Good Lord every day that He had Courtney on that bank,” Hughes says. “If I had been there earlier in the day, she wouldn’t have been there and I don’t know if I would be here.”

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