ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A 16-year-old girl was swept away after being surprised by a rush of water that suddenly came up behind her. A firefighter just happened to be driving by when he saw the commotion. He says his training immediately kicked in when he heard the cries for help.
“It’s part of the job and I didn’t think twice about it,” says Albuquerque firefighter Greg Vallejos.
He was driving through the Winrock Shopping Center, heading home from a doctor’s office when he saw a commotion and stopped to see what was going on.
“They were saying, somebody’s stuck in the arroyo,” says Vallejos.
That’s when Vallejos sprung into action.
“I got out and saw a 16-year-old girl trapped in the arroyo and I informed her that help is on the way. I’m an off-duty firefighter and I’m on the phone with dispatch,” explained Vallejos.
He says water was moving at nearly 30 miles an hour.
“You’re just at the mercy of where the water’s taking you,” Vallejos says.
He says it had already carried the girl close to two and a half miles before she managed to find a corner and stand against a wall until help arrived.
“I tried to keep everybody around from trying to get in there to help her and keep everybody calm and have her just stay put until help and reassure her that help was on the way,” says Vallejos.
Moments later, two police officers arrived on scene.
“The two officers tied their coats together and lowered them down and we just wanted to get her out safely and quickly as possible,” recalls Vallejos.
It wasn’t ideal but, quick thinking got the girl out safely.
“Anything you can get out to the patient that allows them to hold onto something and draw them over to the side of the channel where we have the potential,” says AFD Lt. Chris Carlsen.
Vallejos says he’s glad he was in the right place at the right time.
“I’m really happy that she was okay. I feel really good about that,” Vallejos said.
Vallejos says the girl was pretty banged up but she was okay. He says she just wanted her mom, who was on the way. Vallejos says it was between seven and 10 minutes from the time he found her to the time they pulled her out.
While APD used their jackets to pull the girl out, AFD says they usually have special tools for that including a 75-foot rope stuffed into a bag they use to throw to the person in need. In this case, they say it was important to get something to the girl for her to hold onto and use to pull her to safety.