Sedona AZ (January 17, 2019) – Yesterday evening [January 16, 2019] Sedona Fire District responded to a report of a vehicle swept away while attempting to cross Oak Creek at a low water crossing. One occupant was trapped inside the vehicle in the river downstream of the crossing. Water was up to the drivers window with water beginning to enter the vehicle. E541, E561, A561, R531 and the Battalion Chief responded and immediately placed downstream rescuers in the event the occupant became separated from the vehicle. Upstream spotters were put in place to alert rescuers of any large debris coming toward the vehicle. Primary, secondary and contingency plans were developed.
A team of rescues entering the water in a wedge was agreed upon as primary plan. The secondary plan involved using the raft and the contingency plan was a rescue swimmer. The “wedge crew” was briefed while other SFD personnel staged equipment in the event this plan was unsuccessful. The position of the vehicle, the water level relative to the vehicle, time it would take to implement each plan, environment exposure to the occupant, and hazards were all considered in the development of the plan.
Once the wedge crew was in position, and positive communication with all personnel on the rescue scene was confirmed the incident commander commenced the operation. The wedge crew consisted of Engineer Andrew Johnson as the point man, Captain Ford and Firefighter Isaiah Moore as wedge right, Firefighter Phil Bruglio and Firefighter Mark Essary formed the left side of the wedge.
Because opening the door would potentially cause the vehicle to become dislodged, threatening the rescue team and the occupant, the passenger rear window was broken to allow the team to pass a helmet and flotation device to the occupant. Once helmet and flotation vest was securely on the victim the door the occupant was pulled out. Rescuers carried the occupant to the river’s edge where he was assessed by paramedics and subsequently transported to VVMC.
Please remember, it only takes 6 inches of fast moving water to knock over an adult and 12 inches of rushing water can carry away a car. “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”