Dog jumps to safety as car rolls down embankment into Gunlock Reservoir

Submerged vehicle being pulled from the water, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A dog jumped to safety as a vehicle rolled down a 70-foot embankment before becoming submerged in Gunlock Reservoir Thursday evening. A dive team and two wreckers were required to retrieve the vehicle.

Just before 7 p.m. the St. George Communications Center dispatched deputies to a reported unoccupied vehicle that rolled into the Gunlock Reservoir, Washington County Search and Rescue Deputy Darrell Cashin said.

SAR divers locate vehicle and shine flashlight through water at location, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin
Search and rescue divers locate vehicle and shine flashlight through water, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin, St. George News

As deputies from Washington County arrived, they found a black 2-door vehicle submerged in approximately 8 feet of water several yards from shore.

The driver told deputies that he parked on top of the dam, leaving his dog in vehicle, and as he made his way down the embankment, he heard a loud crash. Turning in the direction of the noise, he observed his vehicle rolling down the embankment before crashing into the water, Cashin said.

Just before hitting the water, the dog jumped from the vehicle through an open window to safety.

Because the car was completely submerged and several yards from shore, the Washington County’s Search and Rescue Dive Team was called in to assist, Cashin said.

A 10-member dive team was dispatched to the scene, and three divers entering the water located the vehicle at the bottom of the reservoir right-side up, resting on all four wheels.

Divers adjusting wrecker hooks to pull vehicle up 70-foot embankment, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin
Divers adjusting wrecker hooks to pull vehicle up 70-foot embankment, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin, St. George News

“It’s more difficult in the reservoir because of low visibility,” Cashin said.  “It’s so low that you can’t even see your hand in front of the mask, so those divers had to feel around the vehicle to see how it was positioned in the water.”

The divers hooked cables through the open window of the vehicle, securing them to the sunroof instead of connecting them under the vehicle because the weight of the water in relation to the car would have made the tow unbalanced.

Using two tow trucks and with a diver on each side, the car was pulled from the water. Once on land, the hooks were repositioned to the bumper, and the car was pulled up the 70-foot embankment to the road, Cashin said.

Retrieving the vehicle as quickly as possible is critical to reduce contamination, he said. The longer a vehicle is submerged, the more time for gasoline and other fluids that are toxic to wildlife to contaminate the water.

The vehicle was towed from the scene at approximately 11 p.m., so the entire operation took just over three hours, Cashin said.

“The driver was pretty fortunate with the circumstances as they were,” Cashin said. “First, the window was open enough to allow his dog to jump to safety before the car went into the water, and then the driver was able to call for help quickly, with no injuries to the driver, or his animal.”

Vehicle after being pulled to the top near the road, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin
Vehicle after being pulled to the top near the road, Gunlock Reservoir, Utah, March 3, 2016| Photo courtesy of Deputy Darrell Cashin, St. George News

The car was in an approved parking area, but unfortunately it was located in one of the few areas that could have allowed it to roll completely into the water, Laura Melling, park manager for the Sand Hollow Complex said.

“It had two things; a clear path and a steep enough incline,” Melling said.

Cars aren’t the only things that end up in the reservoir, she said.  Numerous cell phones, sunken boats, golf balls and clothing are routinely found in the water; however, to find a vehicle is less common.

“There was a near-miss with an airplane once,” Melling said, “but the plane came out of the dive at the last minute.”

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Chuck March 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Why no picture of the lucky pooch?

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