IFD firefighter nearly loses his life after vehicle is swept away by flood waters over bridge
PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind. – An Indianapolis firefighter nearly died Thursday morning after his car was swept away by flood waters on a county road near the Owen-Putnam County line.
The Indianapolis Fire Department says 36-year-old Damon Fine, a 4-year veteran, was heading to work at IFD Station 24 around 6 a.m. when, in the pitch black of the morning, he approached a slightly elevated bridge. As he continued over the bridge, IFD says the vehicle’s lights crested, came back down and Fine came to the “frightening realization” that he was in deep water.
Fine immediately threw his car into reverse to no avail. IFD says the front end immediately began to dip forward, with water rushing over the hood and hitting the windshield. Within seconds, water covered the doors and leveled at the base of the window. The car’s engine died and Fine knew he had to get out.
Because water was already at the windows, IFD says Fine was unable to open the doors, so he grabbed his cell phone, called 911 and climbed out of his sunroof.
With the car sinking, Fine’s feet and legs began to get wet. The car then began to move out from under him and the current moved him away from a line of trees. Submerged up to his neck, Fine treaded freezing water in his fireman’s jacket.
IFD says he had no feeling in his arms and legs, but he knew he needed to make it to the line of trees, so he stopped fighting the current and allowed it to move him to the tree line. Within minutes, Fine felt a limb underneath his feet and he grabbed it.
“Believe it or not – his cell phone was still working – but barely,” said IFD in a release. “The Owen County dispatcher maintained constant communication with Damon and encouraged him to stay as calm as possible.”
At one point, IFD says the dispatcher told Fine to tell them what he was going to do today. Fine reportedly replied back “you know what’s insulting about this… and a little bit embarrassing… I’m a firefighter.”
Fine used his phone’s flash light to alert first responders to his location, about 13 minutes after their arrival, a boat was deployed and Fine was safely in the hands of two conservation officers, according to IFD.
“Although conscious and alert, his vitals and body temperature were consistent with hypothermia and his level of consciousness was severely diminished,” said IFD.
He was transported to Putnam County Hospital, where he stayed until he was released at about 1 p.m. IFD says the traumatic ordeal has left him shaken, but he says he’s blessed to be alive.
“He says his firefighter training and ability to think on his feet and to remind himself to ‘stop and breathe’ is what saved his life,” said IFD. “Although exhaustion tried to overtake him – he didn’t give up and he didn’t panic.”
There is now a barricade at the bridge.