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N.M. Water Rescue Came in Nick of Time

Just downstream from where a 16-year-old girl was pulled to safety, the arroyo dumped into a faster-moving channel, making it a dicey situation for the two police officers and three other men who pulled off the rescue.

"There were several times I was afraid of falling in, or my partner," officer Timothy Wolffbrandt said Thursday. "I saw how fast the water was going from there, so it was pretty intimidating, thinking if one of us fell in the water at that point, that would have been the next place we would have gone."

Officials on Thursday identified the two Albuquerque police officers who helped pull a 16-year-old girl from a swift-moving arroyo during a flash flood Wednesday.

Wolffbrandt and officer Travis Cochran, along with an off-duty firefighter and two other men, hoisted Juanita Womack from Embudo Arroyo near Winrock Shopping Center about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

She had been in an arroyo at Matheson Park, along Morris NE between Candelaria and Menaul, and was swept 2.5 miles downstream before being pulled to safety.

Wolffbrandt and Cochran were dispatched to Embudo Arroyo after Womack and another man were swept away in separate incidents. Firefighters rescued the unidentified man.

When the officers arrived, Womack had swum to a shallow section of the arroyo and was able to stop herself from flowing downstream, but there was a wall preventing her from escaping.

Cochran tied two rain jackets together and lowered one end down to her while Wolffbrandt held onto his belt to prevent Cochran from falling into the water.

Womack was treated for scrapes and cuts she suffered from bumping into the concrete arroyo during her ride. She was treated at the scene by paramedics and later went to an urgent care center, her mother said Wednesday.

Womack had been playing in the arroyo with a friend when she was swept away during a flash flood. Up to 0.63 inches of rainfall was recorded in parts of Albuquerque on Wednesday.

Police said arroyos are dangerous, even when dry, and advised people to stay out of them.

"Obviously, (arroyos) are not the best place to play," Cochran said. "But under the circumstances, we're glad she wasn't hurt more than she was."

Copyright 2014 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service