A man heading north on U.S. Highway 93 didn’t know how lucky he was to lose control of his auto and go into the Salmon River where he did, according to North Custer Rural Fire Chief Larry Garey.
The driver was going too fast for a turn and lost control of his auto near Deer Gulch around 1 p.m. March 21. When he hit the water, Garey said the river was deep enough and the current strong enough to submerge the auto almost fully and drag it about 50 feet before it hit a rock.
“All I could see was the hood sticking out above the water,” Garey said. Along with Challis fire volunteers, Custer and Lemhi counties sheriff’s deputies, Challis and Elk Bend EMS providers and Salmon River Search and Rescue workers responded to the accident.
The driver had only been in the water for a couple of minutes when two anglers in a nearby boat saw what happened and pulled him out, according to Garey. The water was so cold Garey said if the driver stayed in it for more than five minutes it could have been lethal.
“Those fishermen had him out in no time at all, thank God,” Garey said. “He had one injury and got hypothermia,” Garey said of the driver, who was taken to Steele Memorial Medical Center.
Garey said weather conditions this time of year make incidents like this common. As winter shifts to spring, ice and snow melt during the day and freeze again at night. That can leave patches of ice on the road, especially in areas covered by shadows, Garey said.
People have a bad habit of speeding on that stretch of the highway, Garey said. No matter what the reason, speeding next to a body of water like the gushing Salmon River is never a good idea, he said.
“Just take your time and you’ll get there,” Garey said.