While police and medical services were swarming the scene where a CHP officer shot and killed his attacker east of Willow Creek last night, another emergency call came in. Just a mile and a half or so down the road, a truck had plunged off an embankment and into the Trinity River. The crash might have gone unnoticed if a nearby resident hadn’t heard the driver — now stranded on the hood of his truck, in the middle of the Trinity — shouting for help.
At first it was unclear to law enforcement whether the two incidents were related. Eventually, though, a large number of rescue agencies mobilized a large search and rescue operation that included a hovercraft and a boat. Firefighters spent at least half an hour searching the river bar by foot at around 3 a.m., on a night with almost no moon, trying to locate the vehicle. The man was rescued a little before 4 a.m. — about an hour and a half after he drove into the river.
The Outpost has been unable to contact any of the crews directly involved in the rescue, though the Hoopa Valley Tribal Police were able to confirm that it had taken place, and that the crash victim had been transported to the hospital. Most of the agencies involved in the rescue were volunteer firefighting organizations that have no one to answer the phone during the day.
However, scanner audio from the time paints a fairly dramatic picture.
The first call — at about 2:40 a.m. — went to emergency personnel at the scene of the shooting. It relates the resident’s story of the sound that she heard coming from the river bed:
The resident called back with a little more detail, and offered rescue crews advise about how to get down to the riverbed to find the vehicle. A dispatcher relayed the information to crews at the scene at around 2:47 a.m.
At 3:09 a.m., crews began their attempt to locate the drowned vehicle. They went down to the riverbed at the foot of Martin Road, near the confluence of the South Fork of the Trinity, and began to walk downstream.
The driver was found in the bed of his partially submerged pickup at around 3:40 a.m. A rescue worker, communicating with dispatchers, noted that a hovercraft would transport the victim to shore. The worker does a quick roll call of all the police and fire agencies on the scene.
At 3:50 a.m., the rescue was declared a success.