EXCLUSIVE: Wyandotte Rescue Diver Still Haunted By Spring River Crash

Saturday, February 12th 2011, 5:57 pm
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

WYANDOTTE, Oklahoma -- Three lives were lost when an SUV plunged into the Spring River near Miami, Oklahoma last week

As the five survivors continue to improve, first responders and rescuers from that day are opening up about what played out in front of their eyes.

02/05/2011 Related Story: Victims Of Deadly Miami, Okla. River Crash Doing Better

Jeremy Stovall of the Wyandotte Fire Department Dive Team has donned this dive gear too many times to count for training exercises. His biggest test of skill unfolded in a real-life rescue.

It was February 3rd when an SUV packed with eight people plunged from a bridge into the Spring River in sub-zero temperatures.

02/03/2011 Related Story: Victims Identified In Spring River Crash Near Miami, Oklahoma

"I looked over to see what it looked like before we actually just got down to it and it was just amazing," Stovall said.

Rescuers swarmed to the scene sixty feet below. Time and Mother Nature were working against them every step of the way.

"Trash laying up and down our pathway, we had to walk and probably a foot of snow on the ground. We had a lot of different obstacles we had to fight other than just the cold water," he said.

Stovall and a fellow diver from the Wyandotte Fire Department then waded into the nightmare.

02/03/2011 Related Story: Emergency Workers In Spring River Rescue Treated For Exposure, Hypothermia

"It feels like people stabbing you with needles the water is so cold. If it touches your bare skin it just hurts," Stovall said.

The 26-year-old diver had to bust through the ice just to get to the vehicle, then he climbed on top to help the survivors into a boat.

"You still see the look on their faces and I wish we could have done more, but we did everything we could. I just feel really bad for them," he said.

In the end, three people died. That still haunts Stovall.

"That's the most dramatic call I've ever had to go do. We've had a lot of car wrecks and stuff, but that's one of the biggest ones." He said. "It's one that will stick with me the longest."

In the days after the rescue and the fact that five people survived what most thought was certain death, Stovall has had time to think about the horror and heroism that happened that day.

When asked if he considers himself a hero, he responded, "No, just go out there and do what we're supposed to. We're in the business to save lives, so when someone calls, that's what we do - go help."

Stovall agreed to do this interview to spread awareness about the Wyandotte dive team, which some might not know exists.