Firefighters pull passenger from car that crashed into Gales Creek after pursuit

Firefighters attempt to rescue a passenger from a car that crashed into Gales Creek after a pursuit on Highway 6 on Feb. 15, 2019. Photo courtesy Forest Grove Fire

GALES CREEK, Ore. – Forest Grove Fire and Rescue removed a seriously injured woman from a vehicle that was partially submerged in Gales Creek Friday morning.

The fire department responded to the crash around 8:20 a.m. When they arrived at the scene in the 55900 block of Highway 6, they saw the passenger’s head was above water and crews felt confident they could rescue the person.

"She's just saying help me, help me," said Dawn Haynes, who witnessed the rescue. "Freezing, freezing temperatures, and that's the first thing I could think of, how could you warm them? Get them out of there."

Fire officials say the vehicle crashed into the creek after a pursuit on Highway 6.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office says the driver in the vehicle was wanted for felony larceny and led officers in a high-speed chase that started near the Glencoe Overpass around 8:15 a.m., went along Highway 26 to Highway 6.

Near the Highway 6 and Northwest Gales Creek Road intersection, a Washington County Sheriff's Office deputy set up spike strips and watched as the driver traveled sideways into the oncoming lane of traffic and at high speed. The deputy tried removing the spike strips after seeing that the car was out of control, but the driver hit the strips before the deputy could get them out of his way.

The driver then went airborne, crashed over an embankment and landed 20 feet below in Gales Creek.

Investigators say the driver got out of the car and the creek was so strong that it pulled him downstream a few hundred yards.

A Tillamook Fire crew that happened to be in the area spotted him in the creek and pulled him out. The driver was later identified as 23-year-old Jeremiah Libbee of Hillsboro. He was taken to a Portland hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

First responders only realized there was a woman still in the car once the man was out of the water. They tried to get her out, but the current was too strong. At one point the car was completely submerged before they were able to get her out.

The sheriff's office says the woman was in the water for at least 90 minutes. They say she was seriously injured.

Fire crews used water rescue equipment to try and access the badly damaged vehicle. They brought in tow trucks to pull the vehicle to shore and bring it up on the roadway.

It took crews about an hour from the time they arrived to the time they reached the passenger when the car was back on the roadway. Then, it took another 20 minutes to remove the passenger from the vehicle and transport the person to a local trauma hospital.

Why it took so long to rescue the woman and the techniques used to rescue her:

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