On Sept. 21, Delta County Sheriff's Office Deputies Daniel Abeyta, Kevin Ray and Travis Lackey responded to a single vehicle accident in the 2100 block of State Highway 348. The accident was reported to dispatch by Larry Proctor, who was passing by and saw the vehicle in the ditch. Units with the Delta Fire Department and Delta County Ambulance also responded to assist.
The vehicle was an SUV which was upside down and halfway submerged in an irrigation canal with the driver still trapped inside.
Upon arrival, all three deputies entered the canal and promptly started to assess possible entries into the submerged vehicle. Throughout that process, the vehicle was filling with water.
Communication was made with the driver, later identified as Ron Bonine, 80, a Delta County resident who advised them he was in a place that had air and was all right. Constant communication continued with the driver and he remained calm as they worked to rescue him. After failed attempts were made to get one of the doors to open, the decision was made to break out the rear window of the SUV to try and bring Bonine out to safety through the rear hatch. Once the window was broken, the deputies and fire department personnel extracted the driver from the submerged vehicle. The driver was turned over to awaiting EMS personnel and checked for injuries, which appeared to be very minor. Bonine was transported to Delta County Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Deputies advised that if it were not for Larry Proctor, who spotted the vehicle in the ditch, the outcome may have been quite different, considering the time elements and the temperature of the water.
"I would like to take this opportunity to commend Deputy Abeyta, Deputy Ray and Deputy Lackey for their quick response, courage and professionalism during this incident, along with a special thank you to the Delta Fire Department and the Delta County Ambulance for their professionalism and efforts with this incident," said Lt. William Palmer, Delta County Sheriff's Office. "Also I would like to recognize Larry Proctor for being an alert citizen and observing the vehicle in the ditch and calling in to report it and getting help on the way."
Bonine has fully recovered from his ordeal, but says it was definitely "nip and tuck" for a bit. "If that water had been another inch higher, I would have drowned," he said in a follow-up phone call.
"I want to thank not only the sheriff's office, but also the firemen. One of the firemen, Robert Davis, actually stopped on the way to the fire department and got in the Jeep with me."
At that point, it was pitch black, Bonine had been upside down for about 30 minutes, and the water was rising around him. Davis helped Bonine get the seat laid down so he could come out the back with the deputies' assistance.
"I want to say thank you to all of those people, because I was very close to waking up dead."