Man rescued from submerged pickup after 'stupid' move

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Give the guy credit.
Despite getting his pickup stuck in a deluge, seeing the truck likely ruined by flood water, waiting waist-deep in water until firefighters could rescue him and getting a traffic ticket to boot, Tony Sherrill managed to keep a sense of humor about it all.
“I figured the water would be about 2 feet deep,” he said, not long after being rescued and moments after being issued a citation for failure to obey a police officer.
“Then my motor flooded, and I realized how stupid I’d been,” he said.
Sherrill paused and looked toward East Innes Street, where floodwaters continued to pound his 2000 Toyota pickup, the value of which had likely decreased dramatically in the previous hour.
“This is an example of the brilliant brain I have,” he finally allowed.
Sherrill, 62, of Faith, was traveling west on East Innes Street about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday when he saw barricades and a police officer a block east of Interstate 85.
Sherrill said the road was only about half-barricaded, though, and he figured his pickup wouldn’t have any trouble navigating the water.
So he continued on.
Sherrill volunteers with Students in Training, a group that trains students to work with computers. He was scheduled to volunteer for the group in downtown Salisbury Wednesday morning.
Sherrill and his pickup plowed through water under the interstate until his Toyota finally choked to a halt only feet from the point where the typically tranquil Town Creek normally would flow under the road.
With nowhere else to go, Sherrill bailed out and stood beside his truck waiting for help. The water was up almost to the truck’s windows.
But he was leery of trying to walk to safety. “I can’t swim, and the current was awfully strong,” he explained.
A pair of firefighters with the Salisbury Fire Department eventually waded out to Sherrill. One carried a huge stick to poke through the water ahead of them, making sure they weren’t about to fall in a hole.
They gave Sherrill a life preserver and put a helmet on his head before leading him to safety.
Sherrill said the rescue was timely and thorough, and he only wished he hadn’t bothered everyone.
Asked what kind of fine he should have to pay for his traffic ticket, Sherrill said, “$10 and learn your lesson.”
While sympathizing with Sherrill, Salisbury Deputy Police Chief Steve Whitley said Sherrill had no one but himself to blame.
Sherrill drove past a barricade and a uniformed officer at the intersection of West Innes Street and Faith Road, Whitley said.
“That’s crazy,” he added, as he waited for rescue workers to reach Sherrill. “Just drive around the police like you ain’t got a care in the world.”
As bad as it was, Sherrill’s predicament could easily have been worse, Whitley said.
Had Sherrill made it a little further west on East Innes, Sherrill’s pickup would likely have been submerged, then overturned by the much swifter current. The water in the direct path of Town Creek likely would have swept Sherrill and his pickup downstream, Whitley said.
“He’d be dead,” Whitley said. “There ain’t no bottom there …
“It’s really dangerous. I don’t mean to blow this out of proportion, but this is a very dangerous situation.”
Told that a sport utility vehicle had made it up the street a couple of hours earlier, Whitley said, “That speaks well of the seaworthiness of the vehicle.”
But people don’t take into account the potential perils of such actions, he said. “If the vehicle turns over, they drown.”
That section of Innes Street near Town Creek floods fairly often, Whitley said, but he’d never seen the waters rise to the levels they reached Wednesday.
“The ground can’t take but so much (water),” Whitley said. “All the development in this area has only made the problem worse.”