Driving into flooded areas puts lives at risk, could violate Arizona law
PHOENIX — You probably won’t get ticketed for needing to be rescued from a flooded Phoenix wash or street. However, you could be endangering the lives of first responders, as well as your own.
“We’ve got a current that is strong enough to push an automobile miles down the wash,” Phoenix Fire Captain Rob McDade said Monday. “The current (could) speed up in an area; there could be something underneath (the water surface) that could grab (a person), pull them under. We could always have failure in a line.”
He said equipment failure could also happen, even with helicopters and rescue baskets.
“It still amazes me. You got a helicopter that weighs that much — with that much gear on it, personnel — it’s hovering above water, in inclement weather, and it stays in the air,” he said.
McDade said the department will not punish people for needing a swift-water rescue.
“When you’re there, sure, our guys scratch their heads: ‘What was this person doing there?’ We do risk our lives, (but) that’s why we come to work,” he said.
On the other hand, McDade said, “We do request: Please try to use better judgment. Stay inside when it’s storming. If you’re out … pull into a Circle K or QuikTrip. Just get off the road and stay safe.”
One Valley driver did not get off easily, however. Sunday night, 20-year-old Cooper Moore drove past barricades into a flooded wash near Miller and Thomas roads in Scottsdale. He had to be rescued — and was slapped with four tickets for violating Arizona’s Stupid Motorist Law.
Under the law, drivers can be held responsible for emergency response expenses in certain cases.
Moore said he thought rescuers were a little harsh.
“I just thought it was more convenient going through this and … I didn’t see how powerful the water was at the time,” he told ABC15.
“And when I got to that point where my car is, I tried to go in reverse, but it stalled and my engine just shut off and I needed to get rescued.”
Weekend storms downed power lines and trees all over the Valley, and surges of water closed many washes and streets. Heavy rain closed streets and washes statewide, in fact. In Tucson, 46-year-old Mark Neely died near Nogales Highway when he entered a flooded wash. Authorities said Neely’s car overturned and the water swept it away.
Bystanders and rescuers tossed Neely ropes, trying to get him out; he was unable to get out of his vehicle or catch the ropes. Rescuers had to wait for the water to go down before they could recover Neely’s body.