A man and his dog were rescued Monday evening from the Blue River after authorities said he drove his pickup off the highway and into the river.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Nabors was the lead investigator on a high-water rescue at the Blue River on Highway 70 East of Durant near Blue.
James D. Loven, 37, of Boswell could face DUI charges in the crash that sent his truck into the Blue River, according to Nabors.
Loven and his dog were rescued by Calera Fire-Rescue, who launched a boat onto the river.
Nabors said, “I am sending this over to the Bryan County District Attorney and they will decide if DUI charges will be filed. I will be submitting DUI charges against him.”
Loven’s cell phone was also a factor in this crash according to Nabors.
“He was actually distracted by his phone,” Nabors said. “Loven was eastbound toward Blue when he struck the guardrail on Highway 70 and he departed the roadway to the left and struck the end of the guardrail. He continued to depart to the left off the embankment into the flooded Blue River. This was on the north side of 70 and the river was moving swiftly enough that it carried him, his dog and his truck under the bridge on the south side. It stopped near debris, timber in the river where the truck completely submerged.”
Lisa Schuessler, a local Durant business owner and photographer, was the first on the scene and called 911 reporting the crash and man in the water.
Fox lives close to the Blue River where the crash occurred.
She said she heard the noise a few minutes before 9 p.m. and thought it might be a common noise she hears around her house.
“We had already driven across the bridge and were trying to call 911,” Schuessler said.
She left her house and drove near the area to investigate.
She said, “I was the first one there because my house is closest to the area where the truck went in the water. I heard a crash, then I heard a train too. I went down there to see if it was really a crash or just the train. As we pulled out of my driveway, I looked west and I could see tail lights sticking out of the water. It looks like he hit the northwest guardrail and went into the river. We saw his vehicle floating in the water.
“I could see his lights in the river. I yelled and he yelled back. I asked him about the crash and he said he and his dog were in the water.”
Schuessler said he couldn’t actually be seen easily and that the fire truck on the bridge actually were the ones who spotted him using their spotlight.
She said she counted 22 first responder vehicles there for the rescue.
When the first officer arrived at the scene, she said she told the officer to turn off his lights so he could see the car tail lights flashing in the water.
She had previously told a 911 dispatcher to send a boat to rescue the driver.
She later heard the officer talking to dispatchers.
She heard him say, “Yes it’s for real. I guess they thought it was a prank call.”
She said the first rescuers tried to wade in the water but the current was too swift.
Nabors said, “He and his dog was able to get out and cling to some trees before we could get him out. He was there quite a while until we could get Calera water rescue team in place.”
Calera Fire-Rescue, with help from Durant, Bokchito and Philadelphia fire departments, launched a boat and rescued Loven and his dog.
According to a Durant Fire Department report, the driver and his dog had exited the vehicle that was then swept down river. Loven and the dog were holding onto a pile of logs. Durant firefighters wearing life jackets and safety harnesses tried to enter the water but the current was too swift. They then contacted Calera Fire-Rescue and requested they bring their rescue boat.
The air temperature was very cold Monday night and the water temperature was cold also.
“Hypothermia had set in,” Nabors said.
Loven was admitted to the hospital Monday night for overnight treatment and his dog was taken to Ferguson Animal Hospital in Calera for treatment. Loven was listed in stable condition.
Nabors said, “They are in pretty good shape, considering what they went through. The truck itself is completely submerged and we will wait for floodwaters to recede before we get it out of the water.”
The truck is white and thought to be a GMC or Chevy, according to Nabors.
He said “This was actually the second vehicle high-water rescue of the night. We were actually on another call on Highway 48 north of Durant at the Blue River when this second call came in. We had two vehicles completely submerged tonight.”
Nabors said, “Those folks up on 48 were going to be treated and released from the hospital, I believe. Trooper Steve Ince is lead investigator on that call. The roof of the vehicle was all that could be seen on that one.”
Ferguson Animal Hospital was contacted Tuesday morning and a person who answered the phone said no information could be released.
According to Calera Fire-Rescue the dog is OK. An OHP report stated the dog is being treated for hypothermia and is in stable condition.
In other crashes, one lane of the northbound lanes of Highway 69/75 at the golf center in Calera was closed due to an accident earlier in the morning involving a semi truck and a camper. Authorities expected the roadway to be blocked for at least two hours.
Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Swearengin contributed to this story.