A river rescue turned into a two-and-a-half hour ordeal Tuesday as crews worked to rescue a woman and a fire department vehicle from the North Saskatchewan River.
Police, fire and ambulance responded to the river bank at 2:36 p.m. for a report of a woman in the river. She was rescued and taken to the hospital in good and stable condition for further care.
According to bystanders, while firefighters in the department’s speedboat were headed to the river’s north shore to rescue the woman, the SUV, labelled battalion chief, crawled forward, driving about 40 feet to the river’s edge and plunging in, leaving tire tracks, downed grass and a handful of branches in its wake.
The SUV was reportedly left in drive. No one was inside when it drove into the river.
Multiple bystanders confirmed this account to the Herald, describing what they saw, though none were willing to give their names.
Once the woman was safely on land and had left in the ambulance, firefighters turned to the SUV.
It had gone in near the boat launch at the foot of Third Ave. East and drifted downstream a few hundred metres, coming to a rest near the foot of Fifth Ave. East.
It sunk to just above the doors. its emergency lights could still be seen above water, flashing while the rest of the vehicle sat submerged.
From there, firefighters and tow truck operators began an hours-long rescue mission to retrieve the vehicle. Two trucks had to be used — one to tow it back towards Fourth Ave. where the riverbank was more accessible to extract it, and one to flip it back onto its base.
A large crowd of onlookers gathered to watch as the vehicle was salvaged from the river.
As the one tow truck pulled the SUV to safety, it had flipped onto its side, and then partially onto its roof.
The rescued SUV was covered in mud, and its windshield had been smashed on the front driver’s side.
The back window was also missing. It’s unclear how much damage was done during the vehicle’s initial plunge into the river and how much was a result of the vehicle’s retrieval.
** This is an updated story. This story has been edited to correct the avenues the incident took place between. It took place between Third and Fifth Ave. East, not Sixth and Eighth. The Herald regrets the error.