MARIPOSA COUNTY – On Monday, Mar. 17 at about 6 p.m., a report came in to 911 of a vehicle partially submerged in the Merced River with a female occupant stranded inside.
Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Swift Water Search and Rescue Unit, along with partner emergency services, including Fire and Rescue, responded to the scene about one mile east of the Briceburg grade where a car had traveled off Highway 140 and crashed into the river below.
Deputies and emergency services found a tan sedan partially submerged in the middle of the Merced River with a female adult huddled in the back seat. The woman was wet, appeared cold and visibly injured.
Rescuers also learned that the woman’s small dog was missing in the river, possibly thrown from the vehicle during the accident.
Sheriff Search and Rescue team members set up and rigged a technical High-Line rope system to secure a floating rescue raft used to assist the woman from her vehicle and transport her to awaiting medical staff at the bank. Mercy Ambulance transported the woman to John C. Fremont Hospital in Mariposa.
The woman, from the community of El Portal, reported that her Chihuahua had leaped from the vehicle as it came to a rest in the river. Searchers were unable to locate the dog, which is still missing.
The Mariposa Area California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the accident.
“Our Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team trains very diligently for this type of rescue,” says Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies. “Swift water is the most treacherous venue in which to operate and is the most dangerous for our rescuers. They did a fantastic job. We are very proud of them.”
Binnewies notes that the drought situation has resulted in low water levels, which he thinks most likely saved the woman’s life.
“We are pleased that the rescue was successful. I can’t imagine what the driver went through during her endeavor,” says the Sheriff. “The loss of a pet is difficult for anyone to deal with, and it is unfortunate that we were unable to locate her dog.”