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No injuries reported in morning water rescue of trapped driver

Pickup driver became stuck on flooded Pine Bluff Road

MORRIS – The Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District, along with many other departments, performed a water rescue Thursday morning near the intersection of Route 47 and Pine Bluff Road, south of Morris.

Morris Fire Chief Tracy Steffes said the office received a call about 5 a.m. about a pickup truck in deep water on Pine Bluff Road. The truck had begun to slide off the south side of the road into deeper water.

Steffes said that when crews arrived at the scene, he called the Illinois Mutual-Aid Box Alarm System asking for backup for safety purposes.

"We got a call around 5 a.m. of a vehicle in the water with an occupant in it," Steffes said. "We had some swift water rescue people on duty at the time. When we arrived, we made a decision that we didn't have enough to make a safe rescue attempt. We activated our MABAS Division 15 Water Rescue Team, which brings a lot of resources to us – a lot of vehicles, a lot of equipment, a lot more swift rescue techs.

"We had six members on our own team. Between Minooka, Wilmington, Plainfield and Channahon fire districts, we were able to have enough swift water rescue techs. We want to make sure we have enough to save our people if we get into a problem."

Steffes also pointed out that there were a lot of factors playing into the rescue.

"We are dealing with a couple of different currents here with the Illinois River and the Mazon River," he said. "The big thing is the water temperature. This isn't summertime, where you can wade through ankle-deep or knee-deep water. You're in this water for 15 minutes, it's going to create some medical conditions.

"I wanted to make sure we had a team to go get my people if we got in trouble. We made a call to [a] Coast Guard [helicopter] and Chicago Fire Department helo to have them on standby. Being this close to the river, if the victim we were trying to rescue got washed downstream, we wanted a plan to go after him and be successful in the rescue attempt."

Steffes said that Grundy County dispatch was in contact with the victim on the phone and gave him directions of what he needed to do.

"We told him to stay in the car as long as he could," Steffes said. "That would be the safest. If he had to get out, get on the roof as a last resort. He didn't have to do that. The water was up past the seat cushions in his car."

The driver refused medical treatment and was back with his family by the time rescue vehicles left the scene.

Steffes was happy for the cooperation of the Minooka Fire Protection District.

"We have been using this military surplus vehicle that Minooka had obtained about a year ago," he said. "We have been filing our paperwork for the last 6 to 8 months to get our own. It just takes some time to get it. We are in the final stages, and hopefully, we will obtain one over the next summer.

"The Minooka fire district let us use this vehicle the last 24 hours, and we used it successfully Wednesday on Cemetery Road, and again today."

Steffes said that the incident underscores the need for safety on the roads.

"People need to be wise," he said. "They need to be weather wise all the time. You need to know where you are driving, how you are driving and whether or not it's worth driving."

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