Swift water rescue after Silverbell Road rips open

Raging floodwaters cause a portion of Silverbell Road to collapse.

Swift water rescue after Silverbell Road rips open

CREATED Jul 29, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- It was right out of a Hollywood movie. That's how rescue crews described  the scene of a swift water rescue after raging floodwaters from Sunday's Monsoon caused a portion of Silverbell Road to rip open.

Nearby resident Ray Diaz knew the driver of a small car would get into trouble as he witnessed the vehicle enter the raging water that covered the road. He said the car started to slide sideways, but got stuck after falling into a sinkhole. The driver tried to back up, but couldn't and that's when Diaz told his wife to call 911 because "they're not going to make it."

Sheriff's deputies, firefighters and rescue crews arrived on the scene to find a middle aged couple and a 93-year-old woman trapped in the car. A Border Patrol helicopter hovered overhead to help by air, but ground crews were able to reach the 3 passengers after the water receded a bit. The middle aged couple was able to hike out with the help of rescuers, but the 93-year-old woman was carried out in a stokes basket.

Sgt. George Economidis of the Pima County Sheriff's Dept. said the sinkhole saved the lives of the 3 people trapped in the car. He said, "At the downstream side of the roadway, there was about a 3 to 4 foot drop that undoubtedly had that vehicle been pushed sideways and fell into that drop, the car would have gone under water and we could have been looking at fatalities here."

Economidis said that the road ripped open after concrete structures at the edge of the road washed away. The raging floodwaters swirled underneath the road -- digging the dirt away -- which eventually caused the road to break apart.

The Highway Department spent much of the night surveying the stability of the road. It's estimated that it will take weeks before the road is repaired.