Rural Metro FD, MCSO rescue minivan from flooded wash in Cave Creek


CAVE CREEK – On February 6, at approximately 5:30 a.m. the Rural Metro Fire Department (RMFD) responded to a report of a minivan stuck in a flooded wash flowing from recent winter rains near 52nd Street and Cahava Ranch Road in Cave Creek.

The vehicle had three adult women inside the vehicle that was located about 10 to 20 feet off the west bank of the flowing creek.  RMFD crews could not access the van from the east bank where its swift water team and crew members were located, according to first responders involved with the rescue.

A spokesman with RMFD says that the fire department requested the assistance of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s (MCSO) Fox helicopter, in an attempt to lift the victims out of the creek.  However, due to the location and other hazards the helicopter could not access the minivan.

“MCSO helicopter airlifted Rural Metro crew members to the opposite bank. These crew members, trained in swift water rescue tactics, entered the water and rescued the three occupants one at a time,” RMFD Public Information Officer Shawn Gilleland stated in an email to The Foothills Focus on February 7.

The water rescue took about two hours and the rescue team consisted of four members.  There were also spotters up and downstream from the vehicle, six to eight RMFD firefighters, an EMT and paramedics on scene during the rescue.

All three victims, whose names have not been released, were assessed and treated for mild hypothermia, but no one was transported to the hospital.

“The greatest threat was hypothermia, but after warming up they were released,” Gilleland stated. “I believe the subjects were visitors and may have not been familiar with the dangers and history of flooding in that area.”

The video of a water rescue of three victims trapped in a minivan in flooded wash. Video courtesy of RMFD

No citation was issued to the driver under Arizona’s “Stupid Motorist Law,” which prohibits drivers from trying to cross barricaded, flooded washes, and could make a person liable for their rescue expenses, according to MCSO.

“A citation was not issued because there were no posted signs or barricades,” MCSO Sergeant Bryant Vanegas stated in an email.

RMFD always recommends that people heed the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” motto when encountering flooded washes while driving.

“We very grateful that there were no injuries and that we were able to utilize the training we have done in the past with MCSO and our swift water rescue trainers to safely rescue these ladies,” Gilleland said.