Medical transport driver faces charges, after getting herself and patient stranded in wash

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A medical transport diver is facing charges after police say she ignored signs not to drive in a flooded wash.

The woman, who drives for Dependable Medical Transport Services, had a patient with her in the van and was scheduled to pick up another according to police reports, when she drove into the wash.

It happened near 77th Street and Roosevelt just before 5 am on Thursday.

Fire officials say there was a sign with flashing lights and a number of barricades that the driver went around before getting stuck.

"They were scared, just very scared, they were shaking we were just trying to keep them calm because we were very concerned as we were pulling them out that one of them would panic and that would cause an even worse situation for us," said Capt. Mike Virgadamo with the Scottsdale Fire Dept.

The driver and wheelchair-bound man, who was going to his dialysis appointment according to police, had to be rescued with a ladder truck and bucket.

Fire crews from Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tempe assisted with the rescue, which officials say was very challenging.

"We had everything going against us, the angle, the depth of the water is four to five feet deep on the side of the van, there was no way to open the door the way the water pressure was pushing against the side door," said Capt. Virgadamo.

"We were concerned number one, that the van was going to move on us and number two, whether it was going to roll over that was our biggest concern," said Capt. David Folio.

A number of firefighters waited down stream, while others stood by with a boat in case they ran into a problem.

The male patient was transported to the hospital to be evaluated as a precaution.

The CEO of the transport company DMTS says the driver has been with them since March and hasn't had any prior incidents in her five years of experience.

She has been suspended while the company looks into the incident.

"We're still looking at it but I think there was driver error because she got stuck in the water," said Richard Ganley. "Right now we're continuing to check in to it and investigate what happened. I hope this would never happen again. People do make mistakes."

"You can see the signs all over, it's well lit and still people don't get the message. We gotta go through this every time it rains, we actually knew it was coming - we were in the firehouse planning for this type of rescue," said Capt. Virgadamo.

Scottsdale police are recommending the driver be charged with reckless driving.

Scottsdale Police Dept. report on water rescue