No one was hurt Wednesday night when a truck towing a boat trailer became almost completely submerged in Rocky Fork Lake after it reportedly lost traction on a boat ramp and rolled back into the water, an official said Thursday.
Branden Jackman, the public information officer for Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, said he got a call late Wednesday evening from a firefighter on duty saying a vehicle had become submerged in Rocky Fork Lake and a dive team was needed.
Jackman, who was off duty at the time, grabbed his diving gear and hurried to the scene at the North Beach Launch Ramp, where he and Capt. Jon Strain, another Paint Creek diver, entered murky 52-degree water to salvage the vehicle.
According to Jackman, the truck had been towing a boat and trailer on the ramp, and due to the slippery surface, lost traction and slipped back into the water.
The only occupant of the vehicle was its female driver, who was able to escape through the window and swim to safety before the cab filled with water.
The woman refused treatment at the scene, Jackman said.
“Luckily, they had the window rolled down already,” he said.
Victims in other incidents that required a dive team were not so lucky, Jackman said, and the district has been working to assemble an underwater rescue and recovery team for future incidents.
“We see a need,” Jackman said. “This is not the first time we’ve been called out on something like this.”
According to Jackman, the district already has eight to 10 certified divers, including Chief Dave Manning.
The difficulty in organizing the team is the time it takes for staff to get certified as search and rescue divers, which requires intense dive training.
On Wednesday night, Jackman said, he was grateful the only thing that had to be recovered from the truck was the driver’s purse.
As the operation unfolded, Strain and Jackman attached a tow cable to the truck, and a wrecker attempted to drag the load out of the water.
The first tow cable snapped due to weight, but crews were eventually able to fish the vehicle out of the lake with a second cable and the ordeal ended around midnight, Jackman said.
Officials with Paint Creek, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources responded to the scene.
Jackman said Strain at one point sat on the hood of the vehicle as it was being pulled from the water and was alarmed to feel something brush his back.
It was the windshield wipers.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.