Right place, right time: Tooele police describe frantic water rescue

Jun 7, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: 2:01 pm

Members of the Tooele Police Department are talking about a water rescue they conducted because the...

Police shot out a window and pulled an unconscious 12-year-old girl out of a submerged car in Settlement Canyon Reservoir Saturday afternoon. (Derek Petersen, KSL TV)

(Derek Petersen, KSL TV)

TOOELE, Utah — Members of the Tooele Police Department are talking about a water rescue they were able to conduct at Settlement Canyon Reservoir, simply because they were in the right place at the right time.

It was a 12-year-old girl that benefited from the incredible timing.

Tooele Police were checking water levels at Settlement Canyon Reservoir

Corporal Colbey Bentley with the Tooele Police Department said some of their officers were checking the water level at Settlement Canyon Reservoir on Saturday when bystanders told them that a van had accidentally entered the water, and sunk below the surface.

Settlement Canyon Reservoir in Tooele County, pictured on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

“As soon as the vehicle goes down, which is completely submerged at this point, our officers are able to jump into the water and are able to start searching for the vehicle,” Bentley told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic.

They found the van but were faced with the near impossibility of opening a car door when it is submerged in water. 

“They are able to get down there they’re trying to break windows open. They’re trying to open doors. But as many people know when we have a submerged vehicle, it’s hard to break a window, it’s hard to open a door it just doesn’t happen,” he said.

Shooting into the murky water of Settlement Canyon Reservoir

Part of a police officer’s training, Bentley said, is to think out of the box when they have to. A 12-year-old girl was stuck in a vehicle full of water. So they fired their service weapon into the window.

“And an officer swimming around feels an arm and is able to pull the 12-year-old girl out,” Bentley said.

The child was unconscious. She wasn’t breathing. 

She was pulled to the shore where medical services had arrived. Police said she was taken to one hospital, and then another, and that she ended up being in good condition.

The van was eventually pulled from the water. Bentley said it had been submerged in about 11 feet of murky water. 

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Right place, right time: Tooele police describe frantic water rescue