Multiple victims rescued during SJ swift-water rescues

SAN JACINTO — As heavy rains pounded Riverside County and surrounding regions yesterday, Thursday, Feb. 14, dozens of first responders were called in to assist during multiple San Jacinto area swift-water rescues. Three separate rescues were reported over the course of a few hours and all happened with a ten-mile radius. Other swift-water rescues were reported throughout Riverside County and surrounding areas.

Some of the San Jacinto-area rescues involved motorists who had become stranded while trying to drive across rain-swollen sections of roadways. Other rescues involved homeless individuals who had become stranded in area creek beds and river bottoms, as the San Jacinto River basin rose to levels not seen in the area for years.


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The first major San Jacinto rescue operation happened in a wash in the 22000 block of Soboba Rd., around 12:30 p.m., when officials received reports of multiple people who were trapped in a flooded wash. The victims were stranded on a small island that had formed in the middle of the rushing flood-waters along the west end of the golf course near Soboba Rd. 

Based on the circumstances and number of trapped victims initially reported, more than three dozen firefighters from five engine companies, a Paramedic Squad, and a Swift Water Rescue Team, were dispatched to the rescue, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokesperson April Newman later wrote in an incident report. They were assisted by Soboba Fire Department and Cal Fire’s Helitender 301.

When officials arrived they confirmed multiple people were trapped on an island in the middle of the swollen and rushing river and required rescue.

Due to the danger and rising water levels, officials at the scene requested a helicopter to hoist the victims out of the wash. Within minutes, Cal Fire’s copter 301lifted off from Cal Fire’s Helitack base at nearby Hemet-Ryan Airport and was on scene just minutes later.

Copter 301’s aviation crew soon hoisted three stranded victims from the swollen wash, airlifting them to the safety of nearby Soboba Rd., where numerous ambulance crews and other first responders stood by ready to help them.

All three victims were evaluated at the scene by paramedics and all were later transported by ground ambulances to a nearby hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

At around 2:30 p.m., officials were again alerted to a potential rescue when callers reported multiple people trapped on top of a truck in flooded waters on Ramona Blvd., just west of Sanderson Ave.

When officials arrived they confirmed there were three victims stranded in several feet of rushing water. The victims had climbed onto the top of the truck and were huddled together in the pouring rain. Due to the rising flood waters, firefighters requested a Swift-Water Rescue Team to the scene to assist. Just minutes later a team of firefighters trained in swift-water rescues was at the location and officials used a large inflatable raft to make access to, and then rescue the stranded victims. Other than being cold and wet, none were injured or required further medical treatment.


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At 5:45 p.m., officials were again summoned, this time to the area of Bridge St. and Central Ave. in Gilman Springs, after receiving reports of a motorist who was stranded inside a vehicle that had become swamped by the high water levels

When firefighters arrived on scene they found a single vehicle stuck in the rain-swollen road, with water “up to the vehicle’s windows,” according to Cal Fire. Firefighters managed to quickly rescue that victim, who was not injured and did not require medical treatment

With rain expected to continue through the weekend, officials have reminded motorists to use caution while trying to traverse rain-swollen roads and have urged homeless throughout the region to seek safer shelter and stay away from area creeks and river beds.

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Miguel Shannon/OC Hawk News photo

Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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