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Innisfail fire crews rescue stranded woman from Red Deer River

Rescued woman immediately handed over to Innisfail RCMP
The small motor vehicle that had an elderly lady occupant and a small Chihuahua dog is partially submerged in the Red Deer River following a dramatic rescue operation on May 8 by a fire and rescue team from the Innisfail Fire Department. Photo courtesy of the Innisfail Fire Department

INNISFAIL – An elderly woman who was stranded all night in her car after it had fallen from a cliff and into the Red Deer River was the recipient of a dramatic water rescue by an Innisfail Fire Department fire and rescue team.

However, once safely rescued, the lady, who was about 65-years-old, was not immediately taken to the hospital for further treatment and observation.

“She was actually taken into custody by the (Innisfail) RCMP,” said Gary Leith, fire chief of the Innisfail Fire Department.

Calls to Innisfail RCMP for more information were not immediately returned.

Leith said his department received a report at about 7 a.m. on May 8 of a submerged motor vehicle in the Red Deer River about a kilometre downstream and north of Highway 54.

He said the fire and rescue team launched a fire department rescue boat to locate the vehicle and its female occupant and a Chihuahua dog.

“We had a crew of three on the rescue boat. We also had our rescue and command units who proceeded on the quad trails and provided a staging point for EMS,” said Leith, adding it was determined the motor vehicle had fallen 20 feet off a cliff and into the water.

He said a boat rescue was necessary because the stricken motor vehicle could not be seen from the highway.

“Because our vehicles could not negotiate the trails, the quickest response was to turn around and launch the boat,” said Leith.

He said it took a total of about 40 minutes to launch the boat, locate the vehicle and recover the lady and dog.

“Initially, she was thought to be unconscious, but no, she was conscious and breathing and was placed in the care of EMS,” said Leith, adding the incident was potentially life threatening. “Potentially yes. It (motor vehicle) was in the river. She had been there since two o’clock in the morning when the incident happened and it was only at first light when somebody heard the vehicle horn being sounded.”

Leith said he could not say whether the woman had sustained any injuries, and was later taken to hospital for treatment.

It is also not known at this time why the woman and her dog were out in the early morning hours driving a motor vehicle on a quad trail along the bank of the Red Deer River, and far away from the highway.

“I can not speak to that,” said Leith.

Johnnie Bachusky

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