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A close call

Modified: Monday, Jan 9th, 2017

Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian Adam Selck and his son Reese revisit a body of water Monday where Reese helped save his brother, Charlie's life, Sunday where he fell and almost got pulled into a drainage pipe.

Boy rescued from storm waters

WATSONVILLE — An 11-year-old Watsonville boy was yanked from dangerous waters Sunday in a rescue that surprised by the emergency personnel that responded.

Around 1:30 p.m. emergency crews were dispatched to a report of a boy that had plunged into a drainage culvert off of Holohan Road near Laken Drive.

The boy, Charlie Selck, had been walking with his older brother Reese, 15, and their mother Ashley.

When Charlie tried to step closer to the water, he mistook a mass of floating debris for dry land and plunged into the water, Selck said.

Reese grabbed his brother’s arm just before he was sucked away by strong currents and into an underground pipe that was flushed with rushing water.

“I just knew I had to hang on to him as long as I could until help arrived,” he said.

When the mother tried to reach in and help, she slid into the currents as well.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Erbe arrived and, knowing what danger the family was in, tore off his utility belt and jumped in the water to help.

The family struggled to keep Charlie from being sucked into the drain, but were losing the battle against the powerful suction.

“By the time the first deputy arrived, he was up to his neck,” Selck said.

Watsonville Fire Division Chief Rob Ryan said that once he arrived he realized the water sucking down through an underground drainpipe was far more powerful that anyone realized.

Eventually Watsonville Fire Capt. Corey Schaefer arrived with his crew.

“I had one foot on concrete and I went to step on what I thought was solid ground but it was floating debris, so I plunged straight in,” Schaefer said. “That’s when firefighter Stone (John) jumped in.”

Schaefer said the currents were so powerful that emergency workers had a difficult time hauling the victims out of the water.

Firefighters, along with a handful of Sheriff’s deputies, eventually managed to haul everyone out to safety.

Ryan said he’d never seen anything like what happened.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never dealt with anything like it,” he said. “It all came together miraculously; it was something you see on TV. I’m just glad we were able to make the rescue. It was just by grace that everything went our way.”

Charlie and Stone were taken to Watsonville Community Hospital. Stone’s knee was hurt in the rapids. They were both treated and released.

“It had a lot of potential for disaster,” Ryan said. “We were able to complete the mission we were there for. The strength of the water was incredible. It was one of those career incidents. This is one that will stay with me a long time. You ask yourself, ‘what could have happened?’ We risked life and limb. I’m very proud of all the emergency people that got this done.”

Schaefer said once he got back to the station his mind was reeling.

“I was thinking, ‘what just happened?’" he said. "It’s amazing it turned out the way it did. It had a good ending.”

Selck said that her family’s story can be a cautionary tale for others to exercise extreme caution around floodwaters.

“All we were doing is going for a walk,” she said. “This was out of the ordinary.”

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