Raw video: MCSO rescues person from submerged minivan

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- While en route to a water rescue in Wittman, a Maricopa County Sheriff's Department helicopter landed and rescued a woman from minivan submerged in a running wash in Surprise.

Chopper 3 was overhead as two deputies performed the daring rescue early Tuesday afternoon in the area of  153rd Avenue and Dynamite Boulevard.

It was the Chopper 3 pilot who spotted the minivan in the wash and alerted MCSO. Aerial video showed water washing over the vehicle's hood as it rushed down the wash.

The Associated Press identified the rescuers as Sgt. Wes Kueffer, the pilot, and Deputy Joe Sudella.

Bracing himself against the fast-moving water, Kueffer waded to the minivan, wrenched the sliding door open and pulled the woman out as Sudella stood by to help if needed. The men carried the woman out of the water and walked her to safety.

Chopper 3 later showed the woman sitting with a neighbor. It was not immediately clear if she was injured, but she did not appear to be as she talked to one of her rescuers.

The area of 153rd Avenue and Dynamite Boulevard, which is north of U.S. 60/Grand Avenue and Loop 303, is about an hour northwest of Sky Harbor International Airport.

Crews from various agencies responded to rescue calls throughout Maricopa County, many of them involving cars caught in flooded washes or roadways.

Earlier in the day, aerial video from Chopper 3 showed quite a bit of flooding in the New River area. The chopper was overhead as two pickup trucks struggled through a flooded area, exactly what firefighters say you should not do. While both drivers made it across safely, it was touch as go as the fast-moving water nearly swept the vehicles away.

Safety experts say if you see standing water in the roadway, do not drive into it. It does not take much water -- only a few inches -- to disable a vehicle. It is always better to err on the side of caution and turn around.

If you attempt to drive through a flooded area and get stuck, you could be in for a hefty fine through Arizona's "Stupid Motorist Law," which went into effect in 1995.

It states you'll be responsible for any costs to rescue you if you choose to ignore warning signs to avoid certain areas.

If an emergency vehicle comes to the rescue and you need a tow out of danger, you can still be billed up to $2,000.