A family of four had to be rescued when their SUV started sinking in the Stones River in Rutherford County on Saturday night.
Two children, ages 7 and 13, were in the car with their mother and their 19-year-old sister when the vehicle was swept off the slab bridge on Elam Mill Road, eventually becoming submerged in 4 feet of water.
Authorities rushed to the scene after receiving a 911 call at 9:35 p.m. Despite not having proper gear, two officers jumped into the fast-moving water and brought the family to safety.
“Water started rushing into the car itself, and the car was slowly still moving down river,” said Deputy Michael Farmer with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.
Farmer, a former Army Ranger, has performed swift water rescues before.
“I was extremely afraid that if any of us would have went downstream, we would have died,” Farmer said.
Farmer and Lt. Chris Haynes were the first to go into the water to rescue the family with the help of 100 feet of rope Deputy Moses Mosby had in his patrol car.
“They did an outstanding job. To jump in the cold water without any rescue gear, I commend them for their actions,” said Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.
Haynes went after the smallest child first.
“At one point, I slipped and went under,” Haynes said. “She crawled up to the top of my neck and just held onto my head.”
Arnold said the rescuers were treated for hypothermia.
According to officials, crews were able to get the family out of the SUV within 16 minutes. They were treated by Rutherford County Emergency Medical Center paramedics and are said to be OK.
Arnold said the driver went past signs that said the road was closed for high water. It is unclear if she chose to drive past them or if she did not see them.
Sheriff’s deputies say they’ve been having problems with drivers ignoring road closure signs or even turning them over.