A backhoe driver eating his lunch on a canal bank had his break interrupted when he heard a loud noise and saw a van nose down and sinking in swift-moving water, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The crash occurred about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday along Road 208, north of Avenue 152, west of Porterville.
The backhoe driver, Eliseo Sanchez, who works for the Lower Tule Irrigation District, drove to where the 2000 GMC Safari Van was sinking and used his vehicle’s bucket to lift the van out of the water as far as possible, said Officer Michael Smith of the Porterville CHP office.
“He was able to keep the van stationary and close to the edge of the canal to allow the swift-water rescue people to get to the scene,” he said.
Without the swift action by Sanchez, the van would have submerged and been pushed to the west by the swift water, Smith said.
He was able to keep the van stationary and close to the edge of the canal to allow the swift-water rescue people to get to the scene.
Michael Smith, California Highway Patrol officer
“The backhoe driver tried to pull it out of the water, but at the very least he was able to pull it out partially,” said Smith.
Sanchez has worked for the Lower Tule River Irrigation District for more than 20 years, said Dan Vink, the district’s general manager.
There is a lot of water flowing quickly through the Wood Central Canal, where the crash occurred, he said.
“He tried to get a handle on the car and get it out of the water,” Vink said.
Vink said he wasn’t surprised by Sanchez’s quick response.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all, he is a solid-to-the-core kind of person and I don’t think he would have thought of doing anything other than what he did,” Vink said.
The unidentified woman, the only occupant in the van, was dead at the scene. The CHP said she was a Porterville resident in her 40s.