The KFD Weisgarber team saves a life

Battalion Commander Rusty Singleton was the first to hear the cries, “Jesus, save me! Jesus, save me!

Fire Master Justin Ingle battled thick brambles and brambles, followed her screams and found her.

Firefighter Ethan Tompkins was right behind Ingle with a rope.

Motor 18 Captain Chris McReynolds came to the side of the creek bank to help with this life-saving rescue.

On the evening of Monday, August 30, 2021, just after 8 p.m., these four professionals from the Knoxville Fire Department at Station 18 on Weisgarber Road worked as a team to save the life of a young woman. If Ingle hadn’t waded into the deep creek immediately when he finally spotted her, this surgery could easily have been a recovery rather than a life saved.

That Monday, Knoxville was hit by regular thunderstorms and showers from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Many streets were flooded. This 200 block of Papermill Drive below McKay’s Books is a prime flooding area. That night he was really inundated.

What looks like a ditch on Papermill next to I-40 is actually a small stream on a normal day. On heavy rainy days it can and has become a great roaring stream. This young woman, an Uber driver, was driving west on Papermill when she saw the road flooded. When she tried to turn around, her little Honda was sucked into the water and the fast-flowing stream. Downstream it went with water that was estimated to be 15 to 20 feet deep in places. Passers-by saw him arrive.

KFD received alarm for “vehicle trapped in rapid flood water” just after 8 p.m.

What happened next, in the words of the beefy Captain McReynolds, a 25-year-old KFD veteran, was “truly a miracle. There is no doubt in my mind that God played a part in this. No other explanation.

Here are the facts that led to his conclusion:

Chief Singleton had received a call and was sitting under the I-40 overpass over Weisgarber, returning to the station. When the call came in he made a right turn onto Papermill and walked to a location near McKay’s and stopped just before the flooded causeway. He rolled down his window. It was then that he heard the repeated cries: “Jesus save me!

And the 18 engine – with Ingle behind the wheel, McReynolds in charge and Tompkins in the back – was heading eastbound Singleton towards Papermill from a previous call near the Papermill / Kingston Pike intersection. Ingle walked through the water to Singleton’s vehicle.

“The chef was right there and we were very close to the arrival of Papermill,” said Ingle. “It’s beyond chance. If we had been at the station when the call came in I think things would have been different. I don’t think she would have survived. We were in the right place at the right time, and as the captain said, it is no coincidence. “

Her car, with her inside, was carried into the creek.

Justin Ingle waded into the creek, grabbed the woman and hung on as the team brought them to safety.

Ingle, 40, a fourth-generation KFD firefighter, wearing his firefighter pants, boots, raincoat and a helmet, walked towards the trees and his constant screams. “I walked over to where the bloom starts and it was so thick I couldn’t see through the trees, branches and bushes,” he said. “I just started to push my way and made a hole. No other way. We were in the race. I lost my helmet in there. As I went deeper into the woods she was screaming and I couldn’t see her. I thought I might find her on the roof of the car.

Ingle, joined by Tompkins, who was carrying a rope, finally came to a steep bank of the creek and that’s when he saw her, hanging precariously from a small tree in the middle of the creek, his face turned upstream towards the water. His body was pushed to the surface by the current. Every time she screamed, she swallowed water. He still couldn’t see his car.

Ingle is not trained as a whitewater rescue technician. But he didn’t hesitate. He grabbed the rope and in the current and deep water he crossed the stream to her. With water filling the heavy firefighter’s boots and the pockets of the raincoat, he hauled himself up to a tree. “I put the rope on her and leaned into her jacket to grab her and rocked holding her and the guys pulled us out,” Ingle said.

“She was hanging on by a thread and said later that she was about to give up and let go of the tree, that she was exhausted and could not hold on anymore, and it was to that moment she saw the flashing red lights on our engine and that made her stick out.

It’s a good place to explain that the young woman, perhaps 23, has refused to be interviewed and identified by the media. It is a right that we respect. But what Ingle and the team did saved her life and changed the story of her and her family.

When something in the water caught her car, she managed to get out and the current took her downstream. “She said she was trying to hang on to anything to stop. She grabbed handfuls of grass on the shore but it didn’t work and she eventually found a tree to grab that was in the middle of the stream, ”said Ingle. “If she hadn’t got out of the car, she would have died.

As the storm water receded, the woman’s car was found, having been submerged and floating downstream.

His car was eventually found. The current had pushed the rear of the car close to the surface and water was rushing over it like a boulder in a stream. Ingle and the others finally saw the taillights in the water.

She was so exhausted that she couldn’t answer their questions. “She kept repeating her mother’s cell phone number and was soaked and in shock. She was asking who was going to call her mother, ”said Chief Singleton. “She was vomiting water and collapsed on the bank. We put her in a Stokes basket and the four of us carried her to the pavement.

Right after they got her on the shore, her car pulled away from what had hooked it up and floated along the creek and into the deeper water.

She was taken to the University of Tennessee emergency room and was not injured.

Here is one more coincidence in this story. Two days later, Chief Singleton was driving near the scene and saw a man in McKay’s parking lot heading towards the woods and the creek. He turned and asked the man if he was the father of the woman they had saved. He was and said his daughter was sitting in his car. Singleton called the station and the Engine 18 team joined the meeting. And she agreed to have her photograph taken with them in front of the engine.

“It was so cool to see her,” Ingle said. “Usually we don’t see them again – the people we help and save. It was a great feeling.

Here is what Chief Singleton wrote in his narrative conclusion to the incident: “… She was so gracious and happy to meet us. She knew so many things had to be right for her. The location of fire apparatus in the area and the rapid time of arrival at the scene. With the quick actions of the firefighters who saved his life. She is a very private person. Her dad told me she didn’t like being in the limelight or having a lot of attention. Her story from the moment she entered the water until the end is a remarkable story. We are honored to be a part of its happy and continuing story. “

As we sat at Station 18 last Friday, this team of KFD heroes saw themselves as reluctant heroes. As the chef said, “We were right on duty that day and in the right place at the right time”. If nothing else, these humble guys are at fault.

Yeah. Four heroes. Then McReynolds pointed at Ingle and rang the doorbell. “We were there, that’s right, but Jingle over there (Ingle’s nickname) is the real hero in it all. He went into the water and saved his life. He did the right thing.

Tom King has worked in newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories to [email protected] or call him at 865-659-3562.