Daring Water Rescue Saves Hannibal Firefighter
Shane Jaeger has seen a lot of rescues in his 15 years with the Hannibal Fire Department. Now he knows all too well what it’s like to be rescued.
Jaeger is the leader of the Swift Water Rescue Team at the Hannibal Fire Department. On the night of June 27, his swift water training combined with a team of first responders saved his life.
Jaeger was alone, driving his personal car on Marion County Road 159 near Philadelphia, headed to a medical call to assist Marion R-2 Fire. As he crossed the bridge over the Fabius River, without warning, he encountered an angry wall of water that swept his car into the swollen river.
Jaeger say as soon as the car hit the water, the water was up to the side glass on the vehicle. He unbuckled his seat belt and was barely able to force the door open and escape.This began a struggle for his life that would last for the next hour and a half. Jaeger says as soon as he hit the water, he felt he would not survive. He knew swift water is unforgiving. Jaeger was swept about 200 feet downstream and in about 35 feet of water. The car was nearly submerged by then.
He used maneuvers learned in swift water rescue training. The difference was he had no room for error without a personal flotation safety device. Jaeger was able to swim and position himself behind some trees and wrapped his arms around vines that just happened to be poison sumac.
For the first time in his life, Jaeger called 911. His cell phone mic was not working, but the 911 Dispatcher was able to “ping” (trace) his location within 50 feet. At first, Jaeger could hear the dispatcher, but they could not hear him. He soon discovered his speaker on the phone was operable and 2-way communication ensued.
The Swift Water Team from Hannibal arrived and put their inflatable Zodiac raft into the water. Hannibal Firefighters Jeff Moore and Ben Devlin along with Lieutenant Gottman from the Missouri Water Patrol then had the difficult task of safely maneuvering the boat close enough to Jaeger, who was up to his neck in the swift water. After several attempts, they got close enough to pull Jaeger into the boat. He was starting to experience a bit of hypothermia by the time he was rescued.
Jaeger was checked out by medical personnel on the scene. Ironically, the only injury suffered was skin irritation from the poison sumac that helped save his life. He was able to return home that night.
Hannibal Fire Chief Bill Madore addressed the Hannibal City Council Tuesday and recognized the impressive teamwork of a number of agencies who worked together to save one of their own: Marion and Lewis County 911 Dispatch, Marion County Ambulance District, Hannibal Fire Swift Water Rescue Team, Missouri Highway Patrol Marine Division, Marion County R-II Fire Department, and Survival Flight.
Mayor Hark congratulated the First Responders on behalf of the city and the council for a job well done.