DEKALB CO., AL (WSFA) - A family's nightmare is over after a helicopter rescue team pulled them from rapidly moving, chest-deep water in a north Alabama river. The ordeal lasted more than 14 hours.
Authorities say the family was traveling off-road in their Jeep Thursday evening when an attempt to cross a shallow part of Little River Canyon failed and the vehicle was swept down stream.
The Jeep, carrying a family of four including two young children, was pulled down river until it became lodged on submerged rocks around 7:00pm. The family stayed together all night, huddled in the vehicle as cold water rushed all around them.
Early Friday morning, the father made the decision to swim for the 40 or 50 feet trek to the riverbank, leaving the mother and children - ages 2 and 4, behind while he went for help.
As soon as authorities were notified, State Troopers put a Bell 407 helicopter in the air and rushed to the scene. Once on location, two rescue flight operators used a 100 ft. long line to reach the passengers. The rescue was captured on video from the riverbank.
One officer positioned himself on top of the vehicle, while the second came along side the Jeep where he was able to reach the trapped family members.
The 4-year-old girl was strapped into the safety harness and flown approximately 1/4 of a mile to a safety zone. The chopper quickly returned and repeated the process for the 2-year-old boy and then the mother, none of which have been identified.
Once all three victims were out of the vehicle, authorities rushed them to a local hospital where they are recovering.
"This entire incident was a success only because of the working relationship between the Alabama State Trooper Aviation Unit and Fischer Rescue Squad who have trained together just for this type of situation," Trooper said.
Also involved in the rescue were members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, Fire Department and the Emergency Management Agency.