Rescuer describes Walnut Creek canal incident

April 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is still no sign of a missing man who was swept away in a rain-swollen canal over the weekend. A daring rescue saved his wife, but their son never made it out of the car after it flipped over into fast-moving water in Walnut Creek Sunday.

The creek was still flowing high as of Monday night and it was littered with debris, which slowed down the recovery effort because they had to examine each piece. Earlier on Monday, the man who saved the only survivor told his story.

Janet Hogan, 75, was fighting for her life in the frigid, rushing waters of Walnut Creek. Rescue workers tried three times to throw her a line, but the current was too strong. Then, just as a helicopter appeared with Contra Costa County firefighter Dave Manzeck dangling from above, Janet went into cardiac arrest and sank.

"She was too weak unfortunately to hold on at that time," Manzeck said.

Manzeck, 36, said he never worried about himself while he worked to save Janet.

"I ended up getting raised up and lowered down in the churning water and at which point she was already in there and had gone under for an estimated, probably good 15 seconds to 20 seconds," he said. "It seemed to be forever, it was probably only 10 seconds, but the longest 10 seconds of my life."

This was Manzeck's first water rescue and both of them were getting battered by logs and debris.

"At that point, with the water that fast, there's little I can do. I'm just at the mercy of the helicopter, and that's why I give the most credit to that pilot," Manzeck said.

Manzeck was also submerged in the water when he felt Janet beneath him. He dislocated his shoulder during an earlier attempt, so with one arm, he snatched up Janet and brought her to shore.

"Then, I had the privilege of talking to her and she was doing really well. I got a good hug from her last night so that was really good," Manzeck said.

Fifty volunteers combed the banks of Walnut Creek on Monday in what is now a recovery effort for 79-year-old James Hogan. Searchers located some clothing, but it was unclear if it belonged to James. He was last seen floating away from the car after it crashed into the creek.

Police say Janet's son, Tim, was driving his parent's Honda Accord when it plunged into the water.

"The vehicle ultimately flipped in the canal and lodged, trapping Tim Hogan," Walnut Creek Police Department spokesperson Shelly James said.

Forty-year-old Tim, a San Diego resident, was found dead inside the car.

On Monday, neighbors were just finding out.

"It hasn't sunk in so I can't imagine how we're going to feel in the next few days to realize we really have a loss," neighbor Jackie Matsumura said.

James was a 16-year volunteer for the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department. He was an usher at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Walnut Creek where Janet did the reading Sunday morning.

The rescue was a bittersweet moment because all of the swift water rescue training paid off with the rescue of Janet, but they couldn't save her husband or their son.

The search for James will resume Tuesday morning when the water levels drop down.


Load Comments