Helicopter Crew Rescues 4 Women Stuck in Boat Dangling Over Edge of Dam in Texas: 'Scary!'
The small, electric rental boat had drifted too close to the dam and became “highly centered” on the spillway, which was open due to recent rains in Austin, authorities tell PEOPLE
Emergency responders in Austin, Texas pulled off a daring rescue Thursday when they saved a boat carrying four women that was seconds away from tipping over a treacherous dam.
Austin-Travis County EMS Captain Darren Noak tells PEOPLE they received several frantic 911 calls from onlookers late Thursday afternoon reporting that a boat in Lady Bird Lake, which houses Austin's Longhorn Dam, was "up against the dam" with multiple people on board.
One 911 caller, Robert, was fishing with his brother near the dam when he spotted the boat dangling over the dam. "There's a boat about to go over the dam with people inside it," he told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the call, provided by Austin-Travis County EMS. Robert also said he spotted a "hand waving from the side of the boat," likely signaling for help.
The turquoise, electric rental boat had drifted too close to the dam and became "highly centered" on the spillway, which was open due to recent rains in Austin, Noak says. The small boat did not have enough power to reverse. Another small boat from the rental company tried to help, but it also wasn't strong enough to tow the boat away from the dam.
Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin Fire Department and the Austin Police Department immediately responded to the boat in distress.
The Austin Fire Department lowered four life jackets to the boat's passengers as the responding officers quickly plotted a rescue plan and prepared for a potential rescue downstream of the dam should the boat have gone over.
A lake patrol boat manned by Austin Police, however, was able to pull the boat to safety. Nobody on board was hurt. The four passengers have not been publicly identified.
Austin-Travis County EMS live-tweeted the dangerous rescue, which attracted hundreds of retweets and anxious commentary from users watching the incident unfold in real-time.
"Scary!" one user wrote. Another user called photos of the boat perched on the dam's edge "nightmare fuel."
Noak says this is the first boating incident he's heard of near Longhorn Dam.
"I've worked here 25 years and I am not aware of a boat ever being stranded near this dam," Noak says. "We have made multiple water rescues near the dam, but never a boat."
The EMS captain also encouraged boaters to triple-check weather and dam conditions before heading to Lady Bird Lake.
"Everyone should steer clear of the dam, especially if the gates are open," he adds.