Man, woman rescued after being swept away by strong current in wooded area

At least a dozen SA fire units responded to water rescue on NE Side

SAN ANTONIO – A man and woman were rescued from a wooded area after being swept away by strong waters and hung onto branches until first responders arrived.

On Wednesday just after 4:30 a.m., rescue teams with the San Antonio Fire Department responded to a high water rescue at an area near railroad tracks on Thousand Oaks Drive near Interstate 35.

More than a dozen SAFD units were called to the scene after Robert Schuiler and his friend heard a woman screaming from the wooded area as they were walking from a nearby Valero store.

“We just walked across the bridge (when) all of a sudden we heard something in a faint sound in a distance,” Schuiler said. “And then I went down that way (to the wooded area) to find out and I’m saying, ‘Mam, mam, mam.’ And then she answered me.”

Schuiler told KSAT.com that he thought about going into the water, but after determining the strength of the current and how deep the water was, he decided to call 911 instead. 

ONLY ON KSAT.COM: Video: 2 rescued from high-water near I-35 and Thousand Oaks

“I can tell you this, from where I walked into the train tracks down, it was a good 20 feet (and) I didn’t know how far back she is but I went up to here (chest high),” Schuiler said.

Nearly an hour later, SAFD personnel brought in two swift water boats but only attempted to deploy one of them. However, due to the amount of brush in the water, Battalion Chief Will Pritchett said they were unable to use it.

Pritchett said he does not know how the man, identified as 60-year-old Bryan Rees, and the woman ended up in the woods, but added that the area is known as a place where homeless people live.

Pritchett added that it took crews about 45 minutes to an hour to rescue Rees and the woman from the small but severely flooded creek.

“I don’t have a clear answer to how deep it was but it’s really deep cover, thick brush in there (that) made it hard to see from our vantage point up top,” Pritchett said. “I know the guys were wading and holding onto trees in pretty fast moving water where they were.”

Pritchett said luckily the water had begun to recede, making it possible to clear brush and use a “leapfrog” system in order to get to the pair. He said that another man who was also with Rees and the woman was able to somehow escape the rushing waters.

Rees, who was living in the wooded area, said he tried to rescue the woman after hearing her screams.

“I could see where she was at and I just kept grabbing onto the trees and swam a little bit so I could get closer but I was still a good 30 to 40 feet from her,” Rees said. “If I tried to swim, the current would’ve swept me away.”

“But I got a branch and I kept stretching out (getting) closer and closer (to her) and then by God’s grace, the rain stopped and the water went down by two feet. I was able to make it out to her and hold her onto a tree,” Rees said.

Rees said had the rain continued, he feared the woman wouldn’t have made it because she was getting “weaker and weaker.”

Pritchett said the woman was taken to a nearby hospital in stable condition. Rees did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

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