A Daring River Rescue to Save a Trapped Driver

Published on the 3rd of May, 2023

Today, a harrowing rescue mission unfolded inches above swirling floodwaters. Thanks to an impressive team effort, a great tragedy was averted and a man’s life was saved.

It was 4:30 PM on the afternoon of 3rd May 2023 when our Galana Operations Manager raised the alarm: A tanker was driving across the Galana-Kulalu causeway when the river suddenly flooded and surrounded it. Flooding is a constant threat during the rainy season, and it is often impossible to predict when or how quickly water levels will rise.

Surrounded by floodwaters, the driver was trapped inside the vehicle. The crisis intensified when the water pushed the tanker on its side, smashing the windscreen and engulfing the cabin. The man clung to the top, but it was only a matter of time before the river engulfed the entire vehicle. Onlookers watched helplessly from the shore, horrified but unable to intervene, as the current made any sort of crossing impossible.

The moment we received the call, our Aerial Unit sprung into action. Taru Carr-Hartley flew the SWT helicopter to the scene, accompanied by Roan Carr-Hartley. They could immediately spot the breached truck, dwarfed by the angry river. As they flew closer, they were relieved to see the driver, still hanging on.

Gusting winds were compounded by the swirling water, which created very challenging flying conditions. Danger lurked below, between the raging river and a tanker full of petrol. Slowly, steadily, Taru inched the helicopter down towards the truck, hovering an astonishing six inches above. Meanwhile, Roan strapped into a harness that was attached to the aircraft. In one smooth motion, he stepped onto the tanker, grabbed the driver's hand, and helped him onboard.

The driver had been stuck in the floodwaters since 10:00 that morning. We can only imagine what was racing through his mind as the water continued to rise around him. Within minutes of the helicopter’s arrival, however, he was back on firm ground. It was a high-stakes rescue mission that ended with the best possible outcome.

Working in conservation means being ready to answer the call, whatever it may be. Today, our Aerial Unit saved a life. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

The SWT pilot who pulled off this impressive feat of flying spoke with Nation Kenya about the rescue mission. Watch his interview here.

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