Firefighters rescue woman in labor trapped by floodwaters

The rescue took about 20 minutes, but it's something the firefighters and the woman will never forget


Charleston Daily Mail

WYOMING COUNTY, W.Va. — Amidst flooding rains in Wyoming County on Wednesday, Oceana volunteer firefighter Derek Crouse heard a routine service call over his two-way radio. A pregnant woman was having contractions and needed an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

The call would be anything but ordinary, through, because both Crouse and the woman were trapped in Coon Branch Hollow by a creek that flooded the only road in and out.

Luckily, Crouse happened to have a fishing boat stowed away for the winter at his house. He and fellow firefighter Dwight Shorter rescued the woman from Matheny and got her into an ambulance on the other side, where she was safely taken to a hospital.

“I just happened to be trapped in Coon Branch with them and I told them we could go get a jon boat and see if we could do it that way and just try to help out,” Crouse said.

Wyoming County Emergency Services Director Dean Meadows said 911 operators received the call around 12:51 p.m. Wednesday. Shorter, who is a certified paramedic, drove to the scene until Coon Branch Road disappeared under several feet of water. On the Matheny side of the creek, Crouse went into quick action.

“I think (a water rescue) was our only chance,” Crouse said. “The water was four foot deep in the road, maybe five, and there wasn’t no vehicles coming across it. I think that was our only chance to help her other than getting up in the mountains and walk, and she would have had to walk all that way and that wouldn’t have been good. So I just used my brain and said ‘Hey, I’ve got a jon boat. Let’s try it.’”

Crouse pulled his 12-foot, battery-powered boat out of storage and backed it into the water near Matheny Church of God, using the street as a boat ramp. He motored the boat across the raging creek and picked up Shorter and Ben Bailey, a third volunteer firefighter.

“He brought his jon boat and we crammed myself and (Bailey) from one side of the overflowing creek to the other side,” Shorter said. “We were able to successfully get stationed without her going into labor and we gave her some medical attention and got her to the boat.”

The firefighters tied the boat to a submerged fence post near the church and took Crouse’s truck to the woman’s residence, about a half-mile away. There, the woman walked to the truck and Crouse took her back to the boat. Shorter administered care to the woman along the way.

“She never stepped in the water,” Crouse said. “She just stepped right out of the truck into the boat.”

Crouse, Shorter and the woman donned their life jackets, got into the two-person boat and took off for the 1,000 foot journey to a flooded field on the other side of the creek. Shorter said it was a tense situation for the patient.

“She was a little nervous given the situation with it raining,” Shorter said. “We were in a two-man jon boat with three of us, and with the jon boat shaking and her having contractions every five minutes, she was a little anxious. It’s not every day you go riding out of your holler on a jon boat. That’s definitely not the place you want to be having a baby.”

The trio made it safely to the other side of the creek, where they had to trudge through about eight inches of snow to get to a waiting ambulance. The entire rescue operation only took about 20 minutes, but it’s something the firefighters and the woman will likely never forget.

“This has to be at the top of the list,” said Shorter, who has been with the Oceana Volunteer Fire Department for seven years. “This is one of the more complex rescues I’ve took part in.

“It’s not every day that we perform water rescues, so we were able to think quick and get the job at hand done.”

Crouse, who has only been with the fire department for a year, said he had never done water rescue drills as a firefighter. He said he just used his instincts to get the woman to safety.

“We just use our own family time we take away from our own families to give to somebody else’s,” Crouse said. “If it wasn’t for volunteer firefighters, I’m not sure what the world would be like, but it feels great to be able to help somebody.”

The woman’s name was not released due to patient privacy laws. She asked not to be interviewed for this story, according to a Raleigh General Hospital spokesperson.

Copyright 2015 Charleston Daily Mail
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