Swollen Santa Cruz River Flips Truck

River CoupleRESIZ


Couple’s Truck “Flipped On Its Back” On Swollen River

Woman Pulled From Underwater In Heroic Act

By Robert A. Naranjo

Santa Cruz – Heavy rainstorms during the late afternoon on Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the area east of Santa Cruz suddenly made the Santa Cruz River rise several feet in a matter of seconds. A passing motorist traveling through the area said she saw several rescue and fire department units, police, and an ambulance. The motorist said police and rescue personnel were looking at the river from the Branch Bridge. She noticed that the river was cresting higher than she had ever seen it, and was close to reaching the bottom of the bridge. She added that traffic was backed up somewhat, but police and rescue personnel kept traffic flow moving steadily through the area.

Two Pojoaque residents, Daniel Vigil and Vanna, were in a truck and decided to cross the river which was not flooding but was at a low flow typical during this time of the season. So they began to cross the river, when suddenly a wall of water came out of nowhere and hit them with such force, while they were at midstream, that it “flipped the truck on its side” said Vanna, who had to be rescued from under water by Vigil who pulled her out to safety in seconds.

Photo taken from Branch Bridge, Aug. 2, near SR 76, an hour after the flooding Santa Cruz River, caused a truck to flip with two people in it. Note the water mark on left, showing about five feet of flood water surge. A man saved saved his passenger from the torrent after she went under water grabbing her before the river took her away. Photo by Robert A. Naranjo/valleydailypost.com

Vanna told the Valley Daily Post at the Rescue Command Site that “a whole bunch of water moved the truck” and caused it “to flip over.” She said that suddenly she “was under water, but Daniel grabbed me and saved me.”  She quickly added, “he’s my hero.” Vanna was covering herself with a green Army issue blanket given to her to use to keep warm by the Santa Fe County Fire Department Incident Command Team.

Vigil, whom by all accounts likely saved Vanna’s life, had traces of river mud on his face, a clear indication of the close call that the couple experienced.

Other area Fire Departments and Rescue Units who responded were: Santa Fe County Technical Rescue & Emergency Management Team, and Fire Departments from Espanola, La Mesilla, Chimayo, La Puebla, and Tesuque.

Santa Fe County Fire Department Chief, Martin Vigil, said of the couple, “They were very lucky.” Both Vanna and Vigil said that the rescue personnel provided “excellent service.”

New Mexico is currently in the monsoon season. Flash floods can make rivers and arroyos dangerous as evidenced by what happened when this couple made a decision to cross the Santa Cruz River, then were hit with a wall of water, that almost became a tragedy. Quick thinking and action by the driver, Daniel, saved a life. And it “happened so fast” they said.

As fire department and rescue personnel advise every day, “Don’t risk it, rivers and arroyos can be deadly.”