2 rescued from flooded waters near Gila River; UTV driver criminally cited
MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Two people were rescued from rushing waters after they were riding on a UTV near the Gila River late Thursday evening.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office tells Arizona’s Family that deputies were called out to a motorist assist near El Mirage Road and Southern Avenue around 9 p.m. Dispatchers were told that two people were driving an off-road vehicle through the wash when it was swept off by overflowing water. Both people were reportedly clinging onto a sign while on top of their vehicle while asking for help.
Deputies worked with the Rural Metro firefighters to try and get the people stuck out of the water but initially were unable to due to what deputies called intense flowing water. Ultimately, a helicopter was dispatched and authorities were able to pull them out without incident. Both occupants were checked out by paramedics and then provided statements stating they drove around marked barricades before getting stuck.
As for the reason for the criminal citation, authorities say that El Mirage Road was closed to traffic. Deputies say in order for those people to get stuck, they must’ve gotten around all the marked road closures and driven into the flooded wash.
Arizona’s Family previously reported on the so-called “stupid motorist law” which permits law enforcement to charge drivers with reckless driving, a class 2 misdemeanor.
The section states that anyone who drives through an area temporarily covered by a rise of water level and is barricaded due to flooding is liable for any expenses from an emergency rescue and removal of their vehicle. The law essentially places all financial liability on the person being rescued. The law was rarely enforced, but it made headlines in 2005, according to a Cronkite News report when Cave Creek resident Paul Zalewski was charged in municipal court after driving his Hummer around barriers and into a flooded road. Public agencies that are responsible for the driver and/or passengers’ rescue(s) can charge up to $2,000 for a single incident. Also, the driver’s insurance can exclude coverage for emergency response
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