Two people, who were suffering from severe hypothermia, had to be flown out by emergency medical helicopter Monday morning, after a vehicle drove into at least three feet of water that was flooding Dal Road in nine-degree weather.
“They are very lucky to be alive,” noted Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses.
Moses said first responders received a call at 9:38 a.m. that there was a lady trapped in water, which was over Dal Road near the railroad trussle.
Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy John Hill, who investigated the accident, said the driver of the vehicle was Kendra Wilson, 37, and her passenger was Edmond Wilson, 64, both of Highway 904.
Moses said that he got within about half a mile of the railroad trussle when he was flagged down by two men in car that had stopped to help an older gentleman, who reported that his daughter was still in the vehicle.
The two men and Moses were able to get the older man into a Whitley County EMS ambulance for treatment while Williamsburg Fire and Rescue, Emlyn Volunteer Fire Department and Patterson Creek Volunteer Fire Department all went to the scene to try and help the woman in the vehicle.
Before firefighters arrived, two bystanders, Robert Allen Miller and his son, Jeff Miller, were able to free the trapped woman, and get her out of the car.
“She was nearly dead when we found her. Me and Jeff Miller waded out into the water to get her. Poor thing was in bad shape,” Robert Miller wrote in a Facebook post. “We had covered her with our coats and jackets until Claudette Richardson arrived with some blankets.”
Williamsburg Fire and Rescue brought a stokes basket, which is used to help carry victims stuck in remote areas or on steep terrain that vehicles can’t traverse, and it was lowered down the embankment by the railroad trussle.
The woman was then loaded into the stokes basket and first responders carried her up a step embankment to the railroad tracks and then down another steep embankment on the other side to an ambulance.
Whitley County EMS treated both victims at the scene.
PHI and Air Methods emergency medical helicopters landed at an emergency landing zone set up at the Kentucky Splash waterpark and transported the pair to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Moses said the duo had severe hypothermia, but otherwise had no other injuries that he was aware of.
“They would have had to have known the water was there. I think they tried to cross it,” Moses said about the water-covered road. “This was a case of turn around, don’t drown.”
If the man hadn’t been able to get out of the vehicle and seek help, Moses said it could have been minutes or perhaps hours more before someone drove along and spotted the accident, which was in a remote area.
Emergency workers responded to a similar situation at the same spot about two years ago, but it was in warmer weather. It took a 200-foot cable to pull the car out of the water then, Moses added.