U.S.

Man using drone spots people stuck in sinkhole, helps save their lives

A man and a woman were trapped upside-down in a Jeep that had fallen into a sinkhole in Colorado after recent flooding.

A car in a sinkhole next to a photo of Josh Logue operating his drone
A car had fallen into a sinkhole when Josh Logue, right, spotted it with his drone.
Photo courtesy of Josh Logue and Colorado State Patrol
SMS

Capturing the recent flooding in Weld County, Colorado, was the reason 18-year-old Josh Logue decided to fly his drone Saturday morning. But little did he know at the time, that decision may have saved the lives of two people.

A man and a woman were trapped inside an upside-down Jeep that had fallen deep into a newly opened sinkhole on a bridge, and it was quickly filling with water.

The area where the sinkhole opened up is a desolate spot. The road is a lightly traveled gravel road in rural Weld County. The odds of getting help from a passing motorist were not good.

But unbeknownst to the two occupants of the Jeep, a teenager at his Weld County home two miles away was about to come to their rescue.

Colorado State Patrol

Logue was flying his drone and looking at the feed when he saw what he initially thought was a shadow. But upon closer inspection, he saw a very real and life-threatening event.

"I fly down here and there's a car in the ditch. I'm like, in a hole? And like, what?" Logue said.

He flew the drone closer to the sinkhole and soon realized there were people trapped inside the upside-down SUV.

"They had six inches of room of an air pocket in there for them to breathe," he said. "But the rest was water."

Logue immediately called 911 and gave them the general area of the sinkhole.

Ryan Nuanes, Logue’s neighbor and a Denver firefighter, was at the 18-year-old's house at the time the drone came upon the sinkhole. He said time was running out.

"This had the potential for the emergency to get worse because my concern was that the water was going to infiltrate that hole and it was going to fill it up," Nuanes said.

The Brighton Fire Department arrived shortly after and went to work removing the vehicle from the sinkhole. Nuanes said the rescue was a bit unorthodox, but it worked.

"The equipment that any fire department had has to be augmented by heavy equipment to get into something like that. What we ended up doing was backing one of our pickup trucks up to the hole and throwing a chain on the pickup truck, and then some tow straps. The Brighton Fire Department pulled it forward, and Brighton was able to pull them out," he said.

Colorado State Patrol

The pair inside the Jeep was finally rescued. The man who was driving was not wearing a seat belt and was seriously injured, according to the Colorado State Patrol. The woman was wearing a seat belt and was uninjured.

The CSP said sinkholes are another example of the many potential hazards drivers may encounter on the road, and driving distraction-free is crucial.

"Young man buys his drone, and that's his hobby. And he just happens to be in the right place at the right time, and we're able to see this car from somewhere around two miles away," Nuanes said.

This story was originally published by Robert Garrison at Scripps News Denver.