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Helper fire fighter honored for heroism

The truck was flooded and trapped under a bridge.
Brandon Wise

Sun Advocate associate editor

Brandon Wise, the Helper firefighter who fought through the frigid, swift-moving waters of the Price River to save the life of a seven-year-old boy two years ago, has been honored with the American Red Cross First Responder Heroism Award.

The rescue occurred shortly after midnight on June 2, 2011. The driver of a pickup truck, 65-year-old John Dunkley of Layton, had apparently fallen asleep while driving eastbound on US-6 near the Carbon Country Club. In the truck with Dunkley were his 62-year-old wife, Kathleen, and seven-year-old grandson Mason Butters.

The truck left the road, crashed through a barrier and plunged 40 feet down the embankment into the river. The river, swollen with heavy spring runoff, pushed the truck about 30 feet downstream under the highway bridge. There the truck flooded and sank with its three occupants. All three were alive and only slightly hurt. But there were in jeopardy.

Wise was with Helper's Rescue 3 team that scrambled to the scene. "When I first got there I saw the situation and I though to myself, Man, this is not good," he said.

Wise said that the swift-water rescue was coordinated among many responders from different agencies: law enforcement, fire, search and rescue.

He volunteered to enter the water, but had to wait until other rescuers had strung catch nets across the river downstream from the stranded victims.

When that was done, Wise rigged a harness for himself, secured by a rope that was wrapped around a tree and held by two fellow rescuers.

He floated downstream - and the river swept him past the truck. He tried again, and missed again.

He made it on the next try. Wise decided to rescue young Mason first. Mason was too small for the ready made harness, so Wise improved a new one out of rope, tied the boy to himself and held him as he pushed off.

The river pulled Mason loose momentarily, but the rope held and both were hauled ashore.

All told, Wise was in the river - freshly melted snow - for about 45 minutes.

Other rescuers followed quickly and pulled the grandparents to safety.

"The training makes things like tying rope come automatically," Wise said Monday. "When you encounter the situation, you just decide to do what you have to do."

Wise was quick to say that he was not the only hero that night. There were others that entered the river and responded quickly and efficiently to make sure the operation succeeded.

He did receive an award a few days after the rescue. It turned out that Mason celebrated a birthday.

"He said to me, 'Because of you, I lived to be eight.,'" Wise said.

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