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Flash flooding leads to water rescues

Flash flooding Saturday evening kept local emergency crews busy as two incidents left motorists stranded in the flood waters.

The first call came in at 10:57 p.m. for a vehicle in the water on Cedar Run Road.

Big River Bonne Terre Fire Chief David Pratte said when they arrived the car was already washed down Salem Creek and one of the men had made it to the shore while the other was holding on to a branch.

Pratte said he had crews on both sides of the water and was prepared for the situation.

“The crews on the east side, the command side, they had determined they could get into the water and make an attempt to get him,” Pratte said. “They got a life vest and ropes to him and the other crews helped pull him out of the water. Then we retrieved the two firefighters from the water.”

Pratte said he believed the man was hanging on for at least an hour and did not appear to have any injuries, but was exhausted.

“There wasn’t just an open stream. There were logs, trees and under currents making it very dangerous,” Pratte said. “The water was extremely high, swift and fast.”

Pratte said it’s always hard to make the decision to put his firefighters in harms way on rescues like these, and that the outcome could have been different.

“People do not realize that those young men that went into that water last night could have never came home,” Pratte said. “Do not drive in the water for any reason. If you are on a back road and you are (unfamiliar with) that back road go very slow, pay attention and do not drive into the creeks.”

Pratte said four inches of water can wash a car off the roadway.

Assisting Big River Bonne Terre was Leadwood Fire Department, St. Francios County Sheriff’s Department, and St. Francios County EMS. Pratte said Jefferson R-7 Fire Department and Missouri State Water Patrol were enroute but were told to disregard once the situation was under control.

“This is why we do water training,” Pratte said. “This was a good outcome. There were no injuries.”

The second call came in at 11:31 p.m. on Colony Church Road of a car stalled in the water.

Members of the Wolf Creek Fire Department, St. Francois County EMS and St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department responded to the Valley Forge side of the bridge.

“We came in from the Valley Forge side because the vehicle was on that side of the low water bridge,” Wolf Creek Assistant Fire Chief Steve Young said. “Basically it washed the surface of the bridge off.”

Young said they put two firefighters in swift water gear and made their way to the vehicle only to find the doors would not open.

“The issue we had with this one is we couldn’t get the vehicle open,” Young said. “Apparently the electronics in the vehicle got fried when the water got into it and locked her in the vehicle.”

Young said the firefighters used tools to bust the window in order to free the driver and carry her out of the moving water.

Young said crews had the women to safety within around five minutes of their arrival.

“It didn’t take long to get to it,” Young said. “She was lucky enough that she stopped right before the part where the low water bridge was actually at. It was fairly swift where she was at, but it wasn’t the swiftest spot. If she had gotten to that part it probably would have pushed her against the fence that they’ve got there or pushed her down the creek.”

 Young said they preach “turn around, don’t drown” all the time.

“If people come across water or flooding across the road, just turn around … it is not worth your life,” Young said. “If she had gotten out there further things could have changed and it could have rolled her vehicle over. It could have been a lot worse than it was.”

“She’s going to need a new vehicle but she won’t need a new life,” Young said.

A Wolf Creek firefighter carries a woman to safety after saving her from a car stuck in flood waters Saturday night.

A Wolf Creek firefighter carries a woman to safety after saving her from a car stuck in flood waters Saturday night.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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