Harrowing helicopter rescue saves woman trapped for hours atop overturned pickup in swollen creek

A helicopter team rescued a woman Tuesday morning who was trapped for almost 15 hours atop her overturned pickup truck in rushing waters after she tried to traverse a swollen creek after recent rains in Northern California.

A helicopter of California Highway Patrol Air Operations airlifted the woman to shore as waters surged around her vehicle at a crossing in a park.

Harrowing footage posted online showed the woman being plucked from the car by a helicopter technician using a rescue harness. California Highway Patrol Golden Gate Division Air Operations said on Facebook that the woman was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Her name wasn't released.

Shaun Bouyea, a California Highway Patrol flight officer and paramedic, said it was remarkable that the woman survived the 15-hour ordeal.

“Climbing on top of the car saved her life,” he said.

Following recent rain in the area, the unexpected creek water levels overtook the woman’s car as she tried to cross the Del Valle creek around 7 p.m. Monday in Livermore, a city about 35 miles (60 kilometers) east of San Francisco.

After the woman spent the night atop the vehicle, a person camping nearby spotted her the next morning and alerted the county fire department. The department then turned to the California Highway Patrol Air Operations for support. Several emergency agencies assisted in the rescue.

Firefighters had attempted to use their ladder truck to reach the woman until highway patrol air operations were able to send a helicopter to rescue her, said Cheryl Hurd, Alameda County Fire Department public affairs manager.

A San Ramon Valley Fire Department helicopter rescue technician landed on top of the vehicle and was able to harness the woman and take her to emergency responders waiting onshore.

Hurd said the woman had often made that crossing before but had underestimated the water levels that day.

Emergency crews had conducted a similar rescue on the same creek in 2012 after a man became stranded atop his vehicle.