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Magic Valley first responders reflect on their involvement in rescue that garnered worldwide attention

Magic Valley Paramedics SORT team were one of over 20 units who responded to truck hanging off a bridge over a canyon
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 8:31 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — In March, a truck carrying two people crashed on Interstate 84 near Malad Gorge State Park. The truck would up going over the edge of the interstate, where it was left suspended over the interstate’s rail, kept above the gorge floor by only the chain connecting its trailer and the car’s right front axel, which was perched on the interstate’s ledge.

KMVT was the only station on the scene as Southern Idaho’s first responders sprung into action. The Magic Valley Special Operations Rescue Team successfully saved a couple and their two dogs from the vehicle. They were one of over 20 operations that responded.

“We’ve dealt with multiple vehicles in the canyon,” said Magic Valley Paramedics Special Operations Supervisor Chad Smith. “The car hanging off the bridge was a definite first for us, though.”

They stressed every second counted, so being quick to act was a priority.

“I ended up driving because I was going to a tree job when I got the call,” said Magic Valley Paramedics Rope Rescue Technician Gerald Dillman. “When I parked my pick-up, I hit the ground running.”

Both Smith and Dillman descended into the canyon on ropes in order to rescue the family from the vehicle. It was a maneuver that was inherently risky.

“I was still personally fearful that the hitch after going through the trauma of the wreck,” Dillman said. “I personally didn’t trust it. I didn’t ever consider it safe.”

A source of pride for the team? Their coordinated effort in a situation where time mattered.

“It’s almost an hour drive from Twin Falls to there, but we were able to have a rope rescue team on the scene in 23 minutes from the time of the accident,” Smith said. “That’s just a phenomenal amount of time for such a remote area.”

Despite the positive result, they strive to improve.

“With the rescues that we do, I think we pick them apart as much as we possibly can,” said Magic Valley Paramedic Isaac Baker. “I think a lot of my reflection on that (the accident) has been on how we can do it better.”

Instead of focusing on themselves, they’re grateful to the community.

“Without that support from the community, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Dillman said. “I think everyday people are put in situations where they have the opportunity to do great things...it just how you react to that, so I would respectfully disagree with being called a hero.”

While they may not view themselves are heroes, those close to them see things a bit differently.

“When I got home, my girlfriend’s kid said ‘I live with a real life superhero,” Smith said.

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