Emergency Workers In Spring River Rescue Treated For Exposure, Hypothermia

Thursday, February 3rd 2011, 4:13 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma – Rescue workers involved in Thursday's river rescue in the Spring River near Miami were in danger themselves, because of these bitterly cold temperatures.

Five of them were treated for hypothermia and exposure and then released.  One rescuer remains hospitalized Thursday afternoon.

2/3/2011 Three People Dead, Six Rescued After SUV Plunges Into River Near Miami, Oklahoma

"I felt for them. It was pretty brutal," Captain Mick Fenn said. "If that had happened in July it would be a big deal."

Captain Fenn is a ten-year veteran of Tulsa Fire's technical rescue. He said it's hard to express the degree of difficulty.

"It's just a level of effort that the average person can't comprehend and that's not even doing them justice to describe it to you," he said.

Frost covered the rescuers who were in the water. Officials said they were treated for hypothermia and exposure. Fenn said it looks like the rescuers were wearing wet suits, which don't entirely insulate them.

"Initially it's just as if you jumped in the water with regular clothes on," he said. "And so hypothermia I'm sure was an issue."

Fenn said they have equipment to help, but firefighters are only human.

"If we have extra anything it would be grit. And it looks like that came into play big time for those folks up there," he said.

Fenn says they train for this every year, but this kind of rescue is physically exhausting and emotionally draining.

"It's pretty taxing on everyone but it looked like they handled it in a professional way. It looked really good," he said. "It looked like they were doing a bang up job."

And this rescuer hopes folks will remember these pictures when they get behind the wheel.

"I know you've been stuck and I know you want to get out. But understand you can get yourself in a situation that we cannot get you out of," Captain Fenn said. "There are no guarantees anytime. And there are less guarantees now."

Captain Fenn says Tulsa firefighters are recertified in eight or nine different water rescue disciplines every year.