A 12-year-old girl who clung to a tree after being swept away on a flooded road in central Manitoba late Saturday night was rescued by firefighters who could hear her screaming for help.
The girl was travelling in a pickup truck with her dad when they came across a flooded rural road at about 10 p.m. Saturday near the community of Ste. Rose du Lac.
They tried to drive through it, but the water was much deeper than expected, up to the middle of the truck's doors. The vehicle then lost power, leaving the man and girl stranded.
'I just wanted to get her out of there. That was the only thing.' —Firefighter Alejandro Vasquez-Ahmo
According to RCMP, the pair crawled out and the father made it onto the vehicle, but the girl was swept downstream by the fast-moving water.
She managed to grab onto a tree and clung there until she was rescued.
Ste. Rose fire chief Daryl Vandenbosch said the girl ended up more than 90 metres downstream from the vehicle and emergency crews could hear her screaming.
"We had to locate her first, and then once we spotted where she was … we got two guys in the water and got up to her and got her out of there," he said.
Chunks of ice in water
The rescuers were up to their necks into the frigid water, which still had ice chunks in it, RCMP said. The dad was rescued from the cab of the vehicle.
Volunteer firefighter Alejandro Vasquez-Ahmo told CBC News he tied a rope to himself and moved into the water, at times holding onto tree branches and swimming towards the girl.
"When I was on the ice … I knew if I fell through that I might be done for. So I just threw that thought out and just kept going," he said.
Vasquez-Ahmo said the cold and slush-filled water was above his head, but they were able to bring the girl ashore with the help of a board.
The firefighters, the girl and her dad were taken to the Ste. Rose Hospital for treatment of various stages of hypothermia, RCMP said.
Most were treated and released, but the girl remains in care.
'I was just doing my job'
If the water had been any higher, it could easily have pushed the truck onto its side and the two people could have been killed, Vandenbosch said.
Vasquez-Ahmo said while he did risk his own life to save the girl, he does not think of himself as a hero.
"I was just doing my job. I just wanted to get her out of there. That was the only thing," he said.
Police are urging everyone to use caution as warm temperatures on the weekend have made river and stream levels quickly rise.
Several roads around the province have water across them.
The town of Ste. Rose du Lac is located more than 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.