Family recounts rescue from flash flood on US Highway 6
EMERY COUNTY, Utah — A Salt Lake City family is recounting the terrifying moments a flash flood swept their SUV off U.S. Highway 6 on Wednesday, leaving them trapped as the waters carried the vehicle down a ditch.
Firefighters and good Samaritans found a creative way to rescue them, allowing the family to return home safe and share their story.
Sara Stevenson has dozens of pics and videos from her family’s 4th of July trip to Colorado with her husband, Weston Firmage, and their 9-year-old daughter, Zara Friedman. They visited Stevenson’s family’s condo in Purgatory, Colorado, and spent a week doing all kinds of fun activities.
As the three sat in their backyard Thursday evening, Stevenson scrolled through the photos on her phone of everyone hiking and swimming at a lake. They visited a hot springs and enjoyed a 4th of July fireworks show in Silverton, Colorado.
On Wednesday, they started the trip back home to Salt Lake City, stopping at the Wilson Arch and Hole in the Rock near Moab. About 45 minutes later, they made their way onto U.S. 6 near Green River.
A sudden downpour began to pelt the roadway, and the three were in a line of cars when they noticed that water began to crash across the highway. Driving behind a semi-truck, Weston said a wall of debris came up out of nowhere.
“The mud and water came up all over the car,” Stevenson recounted. They said the car stalled for about two seconds, and then the water began to carry their SUV away.
“Within 10 seconds we were in this ravine with water,” Firmage said. “It was a river,” Stevenson said. “Yeah, it was a river,” Firmage echoed. “It had turned into a river. Water was up to below the window level,” Stevenson continued.
Mom jumped in the back with Zara, while dad stayed at the wheel and tried to prevent the SUV from flipping over as it was tossed about in the water. Stevenson said the vehicle was spinning every which way, as they floated backward toward where they were driving from.
“Weston was trying to steer it,” Stevenson explained. “Steer it like a boat,” Zara added.
The trio guessed they floated a mile, worried the car would flip. They were able to call 911 through the car, and stayed on the phone with dispatch during the 11-minute impromptu rafting trip.
Stevenson said she was freaking out and frantic on the phone with 911.
“I was like on a level 10,” She said. “Like, we’re going to die, we’re going to…like how do we get out of this?”
Finally, the SUV ship stopped long enough for a truck driver to jump in and back up his flatbed trailer to the SUV, while firefighters stripped down to t-shirts, shorts and socks so they could safely pull the three out through the windows.
Video from the rescue shows firefighters carrying Zara up the flatbed to safety. Stevenson follows, walking quickly away from the flood. Lastly, Firmage makes his way to dry ground, patting a firefighter on the back in thanks as he steps down to safety.
“We’re on land!” Stevenson thought to herself. “We’re alive and safe.”
While mom and dad felt relief, they said Zara stayed cool and helped calm Stevenson down. A rescuer told KSL TV Zara thanked them politely as they carried her.
“She was the hero and stayed calm and cool and collected the whole time,” Firmage said, nudging his daughter.
“Basically, taking care of her,” Zara responded playfully, looking at her mom.
All three of them broke out in laughter.
“That’s true,” Stevenson said, cracking up. “I was freaking out.”
They’re glad they can laugh about the experience and are grateful for the rescuers and truck driver, Joe Bruno, from Longwall West.
Surprisingly, the family’s SUV is in pretty good shape, and they’re hoping they can get it fixed.
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