Pattonville assistant fire chief discusses Wednesday’s dramatic Missouri River rescue

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Charles woman is lucky to be alive after falling into the Missouri River Wednesday evening.

It all happened before 8:45 p.m. just north of the Blanchette Bridge in the Riverwoods Park and Trail area of St. Louis County. The 47-year-old woman clung to tree roots for about half an hour until rescuers could locate her.

“It was very intense,” said Jim Usry, the Assistant Chief for the Pattonville Fire Protection District.

Usry said the woman was out running with her dog training for a marathon when she somehow slipped and fell into the river. The woman held on to her dog’s leash and her cellphone.

She called 911 and dispatchers started to ping her phone to find her.

It took some time to get the correct location.

“Roughly almost 10 minutes into the call they were able to ping her phone on the river’s edge and we knew we had a good location at that point,” Usry said.

Minutes mattered. Usry said the water temperature was about 40 degrees. But that wasn’t the only danger.

“The river was way up, had a lot of debris floating down, so it was extremely treacherous not only for her but for our boats in the water,” he said.

First responders raced down the park trail to where the woman was holding onto tree roots.

Usry said the woman was too exhausted to pull herself up so crews threw a rope to her and two Pattonville firefighters jumped into the water.

“With her fatigue level our firefighters felt it was an urgent situation and so they took off their turnout gear and into the water they went, secured the patient, held onto the rope, and they stayed there until we could get her out of that situation,” Usry said.

Moments later, the two firefighters and the woman safely got on board a boat provided by St. Charles firefighters.

The woman’s chihuahua survived as well.

“A big sigh of relief, you know,” Usry said. “It was miraculous that she was able to hold on for that period of time until we could get to her as well as the quick action of our firefighters to jump in the water and put themselves in harm’s way.”

Miraculously, the woman suffered only minor hypothermia. She spent the night at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles and was released.

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