Arizona driver rescued from flooded Tonto Creek by helicopter crew

We typically see most of our water rescues during monsoon season when the skies open up and the Arizona ground simply can't soak it up immediately.

However, the Gila County Sheriff's Office says a driver chose to drive around the barricades on Tonto Creek and ended up in a dangerous mess on Jan. 2.

"We made the determination that the vehicle appeared to be stable. It had been there for about an hour and a half. We had no idea what the condition of the gentleman was inside," said Department of Public Safety trooper and paramedic Russ Dodge.

Dodge was lowered from the chopper in a difficult and dangerous rescue near the Tonto Basin area of Tonto Creek. It's something the rescue team trains for regularly.

"Our pilot, Scott Clifton, was able to hover over the back of the bed of the pickup truck, looking into the water. He was able to keep it stable so that I could climb out and get in the bed of the truck," Dodge said.

With floodwaters nearly cresting the door handles, the team was able to get the man stuck inside his truck to safety. But as Arizonans know far too well, not all of these stories have a happy ending.

"We lose a number of people every year, between 3 and 5, from flash flooding. A large number of people driving through, crossing or going into crossing, that even if they’re not marked, become hazardous and dangerous," he explained.

DPS says it’s not unheard of or uncommon to have water rescues in the winter, especially after the record amount of rain that fell in the last few days. 

On Jan. 1, Phoenix broke a record from 1906 for the amount of rain that fell on the first day of the year.

"The number of burn scars we’ve had, a lot of times if we get these early snows, and then we get a lot of rain or warmer rain on top of that snow, it just increases that runoff," Dodge explained.

The man was brought to safety, and he was given a citation.

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Newly-released body-cam video shows an Arizona driver being rescued from a flooded Tonto Creek by a DPS helicopter crew on Jan. 2. (Arizona DPS)

Watch the full rescue:

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