Central Valley

Car dives headfirst into watery Modesto storm drain

A driver lost control of his car on Briggsmore Avenue on Monday and crashed into an irrigation pump station, with his car falling nose first into a huge drain with several feet of water.

The car was vertical and resting against one of the drain's walls. The man was suspended by his seat belt for 25 minutes until firefighters rescued him.

"He was looking straight down at the water, and his nose was about a foot above the water," Modesto fire Battalion Chief Terry Inderbitzen said.

Modesto police Sgt. Brian Findlen identified the driver as 70-year-old Modesto resident Ronald Brady. He was conscious and was taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical Center.

Brady still was being evaluated at the hospital Monday evening, Findlen said. It's not clear what caused him to lose control of the car.

Brady was driving a 1997 Chevrolet Lumina west on Briggsmore in the left lane as he approached Rose Avenue about 3:14 p.m., Findlen said.

The car left the roadway and entered the dirt median. It hit a dip and was airborne as it crossed Rose, before landing and then crashing through a chain-link fence for the Modesto Irrigation District pump station in the Briggsmore median.

Officials said the car traveled across 30 to 40 feet of metal grates above the drain until the final section collapsed and the car plunged nose first into the drain, nearly disappearing from view.

Firefighters stabilized Brady on a backboard apparatus, Inderbitzen said, before he was secured in a rescue basket. The basket was attached to a ladder, which firefighters pulled from the drain.

"He was talking, but he was in a lot of pain," Inderbitzen said.

MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams said the accident did not affect MID operations.

She said the pump station transfers storm-water and agricultural runoff from underground pipes to the nearby MID canal.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine

can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.