First responders credit training for N. TX floodwater rescues

First responders credit training for saving a woman stranded in high water Friday morning.

Her car was floating when Wylie firefighters reached her by hovercraft, and she thanked them as soon as she was on dry ground.

"We put it into the water, got everything going, cut a barbed wire fence, flew over a couple barbed wire fences and then made it out to the young lady that was on her car," said firefighter Travis Araujo with Wylie Fire-Rescue.

Panicked and alone and talking on her cell phone, the driver wasn't sure anyone could make it to her with the 25 mile per hour floodwater rising quickly. But Araujo did.

"I asked her if she needed medical attention and she said, ‘No, and thank you for risking your life to save mine,'" said Araujo.

It was a call for help that the swift water rescue firefighters answered three times last Friday.

A Sachse police officer blocking traffic from high water became a victim himself and was ultimately rescued by helicopter after the rescue team couldn't reach him.

"It was frustrating," said Capt. Katy Willoughby with Wylie Fire-Rescue. "We tried everything we could. We even put ourselves in a little bit of a bad situation just to try to help him out."

Wylie's 21 firefighters trained in swift water rescue and dove back in Monday at Lake Lavon, practicing with ropes, capsized rafts, night rescues and combative swimmers.

"They panic, they throw things at you, they get very frustrated," said Willoughby. "Sometimes they jump at you. They'll try to drown you, especially if you're swimming at them. They try to push you down because you're up and you're above water."

Whether by engine, ambulance, raft or hovercraft, the team doesn't know what it will encounter, from snakes to debris.

They credit specialized training and equipment like the hovercraft to position them to save lives on land or in the water.

"It's absolutely essential to be comfortable in the water, to be comfortable around it and to feel like you will be successful," said Araujo.

Wylie is one of the few departments that have a hovercraft; in fact, it has two.

The rescue team even went up to help in Gainesville after flooding there two weeks ago.

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