Varner recognized for heroic rescue

Published 12:11 pm Monday, December 14, 2020

The Farmville Town Council recognized the heroism of a local fireman and the longevity of several town employees during its monthly meeting Wednesday, Dec. 9.

Thomas Varner was taking photos of the flooding at the end of Virginia Street on Friday, Nov. 13, when he heard men yelling. Varner, who works for the Chesterfield County Fire and EMS Department and is also a member of the Farmville Volunteer Fire Department, is trained in swift-water rescue. Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington said Varner dropped his photography bag, called 911 and ran toward the sound of the voices to find kayakers struggling in the flood waters.

When Ellington reached the scene, he was told Varner was out on the river with one of the kayakers who was clinging to a tree. Chuck Robertson, a kayaker who had maintained control of his own kayak, had helped one of the two stranded kayakers make it to safety, but Robertson said he did not think he could rescue the other one in his own kayak.

Email newsletter signup

“I couldn’t figure out how in the world Thomas got out there,” Ellington said.

Ellington said when the Meherrin swift-water rescue team launched its boat to save the remaining stranded kayaker, the team quickly saw Varner paddling toward it with the stranded kayaker on the front of his kayak.

“They were able to get the individual into the boat and bring him back to shore safely,” Ellington said.

Ellington then learned that Varner had taken the kayak from a kayaker who had reached the shore, Robertson, and headed out by himself to save the person clinging to the tree for dear life.

“He never blinked an eye,” Ellington said of Varner. “He told that individual, ‘Stand back. I’m confiscating your kayak, and I’m going after him.’ And that’s what he did.”

Varner received a resolution from the Town Council commemorating his life-saving actions.

“I want to commend Thomas for his courageous actions that day,” Ellington said.

No one was injured in the incident.

The Town Council also recognized six employees who have been employees of the town for more than 25 years. Each of the employees received a watch. Robert Biggers has worked as a mechanic with public works since March 1995. Steven Bergloff has been working as an operator of the wastewater treatment plant since August 1995. Ken Cook has also been an operator at the wastewater treatment plant. He has worked for the town since July 1995. Chris McKay has worked as a communications officer in the E-911 center since June 1995. Johnny Garrett, who works in the police department and has been with the town since August 1995, and Tim Stutler, who works at the water treatment plant and has been with the town since March 1995, were not able to attend the meeting.

In other business, the town approved a resolution commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Farmville Volunteer Fire Department and also sent a resolution to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol endorsing Farmville Civil Rights activist Barbara Johns for consideration as Virginia’s new statue to replace Robert E. Lee.