COLUMBUS - Just after 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11, emergency personnel were dispatched to the area of Southwest 90th and Clem Road, where a passerby saw the tail lights of an overturned 2002 Nissan SUV, submerged in a creek.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputies Noble Dobkins and Matt Hatfield arrived on scene along with Lola Township Fire Department Lieutenant Jack Getman.
Upon their arrival, they heard the driver and sole occupant, 35 year-old Wesley Woods, of Baxter Springs, screaming for help as he was trapped inside the vehicle, which now had water inside of it.
Deputy Hatfield attempted to get to Woods, but was unable to reach him in the waist deep water.
Deputy Dobkins then spotted a cable, which had been strung across the creek as part of a fence. The cable was near the vehicle, so he began to walk on it and was able to get on top of the overturned SUV. The doors, however, were locked, so they were still unable to reach the driver.
Firefighters from Lola Township and the Columbus Fire Department began arriving at that time and one of them retrieved a tow rope. Deputy Hatfield took the rope and connected it to a tow rope Deputy Dobkins had. Deputy Hatfield then used his patrol vehicle to pull the SUV on its side. Once on its side, emergency personnel were able to break one of the windows, allowing the driver to be pulled from the vehicle.
In order to get Woods back to the street, a ladder was extended to the vehicle and the driver was placed on a backboard so rescue personnel could pass him along until he was back to the roadway.
Woods was then transported to Mercy Maude Norton Hospital in Columbus, before being transported to Mercy in Joplin to be treated for his injuries and low core body temperature.
"There is no question, considering the frigid temperatures on Thursday night, this crash could have ended in a much more tragic way," said Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves. "I’m proud of the quick thinking and courageous acts demonstrated by law enforcement and firefighters at the scene, which no doubt resulted in the saving of the driver’s life."