Accident Database

Report ID# 1007

Help
  • Other
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water

Accident Description

On August 22, 1984, a storm north of SalinasNational Monument caused heavy flash flooding which resulted in the subsequent closing of Highway 513 to public access. In the afternoon, raging water across the roadway reached 10 feet or more. Later in the day, Earl Ferguson, a masonry worker at SalinasNational Monument , was checking the water levels to assure the safety of Park Service employees who needed to soon cross the road. By now the water had subsided to 4 feet at the crossing. At the same time, a landowner in the area was also waiting for the water to subside so that he could go home. At the road crossing, its base was made up of 15-ton cement footings. These massive footings had been washed downstream by the flood, but this was unknown to those watching the crossing. The landowner had waited a long time, leaving at times and then returning. When the water was at about 4 feet deep, he decided to wait no longer. He drove his truck around the curve of the road at high speed and entered the water. The force of the rushing water swept the truck off the road and it became buried just below the crossing. Water was moving swiftly over the hood of the truck. Observing the attempted Crossing, Mr. Ferguson realized that the landowner was in grave trouble. The force of the water was carrying trees, boulders and cement footings downstream into an extremely dangerous canyon. Without regard to his personal safety, Mr. Ferguson formed a human chain with another person at the scene, entered the raging water up to his neck and pushed on to reach the landowner. Finally, Mr. Ferguson was able to drag the landowner to safety. 

For his unusual courage in the face of significant danger, Earl Frank Ferguson, III, received the Valor Award of the Department of the Interior.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!