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Sheriff Press Release

DATE: 03/16/2014

Contact:   Sgt Chad Peterschick

Incident/Offense:  Swift Water Rescue

                  Incident #:   14C03836

Date Occurred: 03/16/2014

Time Occurred: 17:48

Location:  Yakima River Near the 1700 Block of Donald Wapato Rd, Wapato WA.

On March 16, 2014 at approximately 1748 hours, good samaritan Art Gonzalez of Sunnyside WA was driving on Donald Wapato Rd.  Mr. Gonzalez was crossing over the bridge which spans the Yakima River when he observed a vehicle in the river occupied by at least one person.  Mr. Gonzalez immediately called 911, gave accurate and needed information and more importantly remained on the scene.  If this wasn’t enough, Mr. Gonzalez began communicating with the occupant of the vehicle from the shore to keep him calm and let him know help was on the way.  Mr. Gonzalez was on scene the entire incident providing crucial assistance by translating information between the victim and rescue personnel.

Because of the information provided by Mr. Gonzalez, the Yakima County Swift Water Rescue Team was activated.  A portion of the team, already on duty, responded directly to the scene, while additional members responded to the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office to retrieve equipment and a boat. 

Upon arrival, team members observed one male trapped in a white vehicle almost completely submerged in the river.  The vehicle, which was approximately 100’ from shore, had become lodged on the river floor and trapped by the current.  The only portion of the vehicle above water was the driver’s side front window.  The male still in the vehicle was able to crawl out of the driver’s side window and seat himself on the door.  It was learned there had been one additional person in the vehicle that had gotten free from the vehicle, swam ashore and walked away from the scene.  This person is yet to be identified.

The team on scene, assisted by the Wapato Police Department, The Washington State Patrol, Yakima County Fire District, Yakima Fire District, Union Gap Fire & Rescue and the Yakima Training Center Fire Department, began formulating a plan to rescue the victim, later identified as Facondo Nicholas Hernandez of Wapato WA.   Simultaneously, the boat teams from the Sheriff’s Office and Yakima Fire were putting into the river upstream.  

The ground team placed one team member into the river and began rescue attempts using ropes, rafts and life jackets to reach Mr. Hernandez.  The Yakima County boat team arrived at approximately 1846 and was able to maneuver close enough to pull Mr. Hernandez into the boat and safely transport him to waiting medical personnel on shore.  Mr. Hernandez was transported to Yakima Regional Hospital where he began receiving treatment for hypothermia.

The vehicle was left in the water to be recovered at a later time.  No criminal charges are being filed at this time.

It took just under one hour from when Mr. Gonzalez called 911 to the time Mr. Hernandez was on the rescue boat.  Given the cold temperature of the water (42-44 degrees) and the rapid current, it goes without saying that if Mr. Gonzalez hadn’t stepped in to help, the outcome could have been much worse.  Yakima County is a better place because of citizens like Mr. Gonzalez and the men and women who risked their lives to save Mr. Hernandez. 



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