Charlotte firefighters describe efforts used to pull stranded cyclist from floodwaters

Updated: Nov. 17, 2020 at 11:17 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Several members of the Charlotte Fire Department took time to speak with WBTV about the tactics used to pull a stranded cyclist from floodwaters last week.

The rescue took place last Thursday along the McAlpine Creek Greenway near the intersection of Sardis Road and Holly Lane in south Charlotte. Firefighters say a man on a bicycle ended up getting stranded in the rushing water and was left clinging to a tree for safety.

A bystander called 9-1-1 to alert first responders about the situation.

“We got somebody who’s caught in the water. He’s up to his chin, he’s hanging on to a tree,” described the caller.

In a photo from the Charlotte Fire Department, the cyclist’s head can just barely be seen above the surface of the water.

Charlotte firefighters from Charlotte Fire Station 19 along Sardis Road jumped into action. They rushed to the bridge above the portion of the creek where the man was clinging to a tree.

“Firefighters were able to make contact with the patient. They were also able to throw a rope bag out to him,” said Captain Timothy Styron from the CFD.

Captain Christopher Rufert with the CFD explained the process of extending help to the man from a fire department ladder truck.

“I could see that they had a rope attached to him already, but I also heard him saying he didn’t know how long he could hang on,” said Rufert. “We decided that we were going to set up the ladder, put an attendant hanging from the tip of our ladder and then drop him down to the person.”

Once the attendant was lowered to man, firefighters were able to help get the individual into a rescue boat. Captain Eric DePoto from the CFD helped maneuver the boat to the stranded cyclist.

"We went in with the paddle boat – went over to the survivor and the rescuer. We assisted in getting the survivor off the tree and into the boat, " said DePoto. “(We) paddled over to the side, caught some trees and was able to get pulled in.”

The Charlotte Fire captains who spoke to WBTV credit each other with helping to bring the stranded man to safety.

“We have lots of heroes at this department and we work together as a team,” said Styron.

Rufert echoed that sentiment.

“This was obviously a team effort. We have a tiered system and every piece of it fell together,” said the fire captain.

While the rescue at McAlpine Creek was a success, firefighters urge members of the public to avoid areas near streams and rivers during heavy rain.

“Just stay off the greenways. If we’re getting a lot of rain, there’s no need to put yourself in harm’s way,” said DePoto.

Officials from the CFD said approximately 30 different firefighters responded to the McAlpine Creek rescue.

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