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Driver finds himself up a creek

Staff writer

A Florence man headed home from Marion Reservoir fell asleep or lost consciousness, swerved his pickup off US-56, crossed the left lane, and careened diagonally 592 feet northeast toward Clear Creek. The truck came to a stop in the center of the creek .3 mile east of Walnut St. extended, which technically is known as the northern segment of Sunflower Rd.

Robert A. Welsh, 64, was able to climb out of the cab of his ruined pickup and sit down to await rescuers.

Marion firefighters were called, but they needed assistance from Hillsboro firefighters, who have boats for water rescues.

Summoned at 9:34 a.m., Hillsboro firefighter Matt Hein put on a wet suit and waded into the water to reach Welsh.

Hein gave Welsh a quick check for injuries, put a life jacket and rope on him, climbed on top of the cab, and sat with him to wait for a rescue boat to arrive.

Firefighters had to park near a bridge on Walnut St. extended to have access to the creek, so the boat was launched from there.

“We didn’t really have access,” Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee said. “We took the motor off the boat so we could carry the boat down there and the two rescuers oared the boat over there, to rescue him. It wasn’t bad because the water was calm.”

It took firefighters Joshua Ens and Connor Hiebert about 10 minutes to reach Welsh, he said.

“It took a while to get the boat in the water,” Steketee said. “If it had been an emergency we’d have put the boat in the water and went. Since it wasn’t an emergency, we took time to add air to the boat.”

His department normally tries to keep all three of its inflatable rescue boats aired up.

When Ens and Hiebert reached Welsh, they helped him into the boat and took him to shore, where several officers, firefighters, and emergency medical responders waited.

Ambulance attendants checked Welsh, but he declined to be taken to a hospital.

Reaching him wasn’t easy for rescuers.

“The terrain made it difficult for us,” Steketee said. “It was muddy but looked grassy. Some of our vehicles got stuck. We were on scene quite a while getting our rescue out.”

The department has three water rescue boats, one of which is a raft.

“The boat is more stable for the victim,” Steketee said.

The department most often uses its rescue boats at the reservoir, but typically those are courtesy assists instead of emergency rescues.

“We go out to the reservoir quite often, especially in the boating season,” he said.

Rescuing someone is rare, but at least his department has the equipment to do so.

“It’s good to have it when we need it,” Steketee said. “We use them when we can.”

Last modified March 14, 2024

 

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