Firefighters who rescued 3 from flooded tunnel honored

From left to right, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel, fire motor operator Robben Todd, Capt. Daniel Olson, Capt. Staffan Swanson, firefighter David Blake and Assistant Chief Bryan Tyne, stand during a Fire Department award ceremony Wednesday. Todd, Olson, Swanson and Blake were honored for saving three men who became trapped by flash flooding. Peter Cox | MPR News

Four Minneapolis firefighters fought a flood to save men caught in sudden high waters along Minnehaha Creek in the spring, and on Wednesday, their department honored them.

In the late afternoon of May 24, five men were fishing near the Mississippi River downstream from Minnehaha Falls when the creek rose suddenly.

Two men scrambled up a bank to safety. Three others fled into a culvert, where a large stormwater drain empties into the river. As the water rushed around them, they climbed a metal grate at the end of the tunnel.

• In May: 3 rescued from rushing creek water in Minneapolis

The four firefighters who kept the men from being pulled into the Mississippi were given the Meritorious Unit Citation Medal during the department's annual award ceremony Wednesday night.

"The crew of Ladder 2 placed themselves in harm's way to rescue the trapped three individuals in extremely dangerous conditions," said Assistant Chief Bryan Tyner. "The success of this incident would not have been possible had it not been for the quick and decisive actions of the crew of Ladder 2."

Capt. Staffan Swanson, Capt. Daniel Olson, fire motor operator Robben Todd and firefighter David Blake lowered life vests down to the men. They told them how to secure themselves during the rescue, then lowered ropes, pulling the men up to safety one by one.

Swanson said the men left shortly after, and they haven't talked since. But he also sees what they did that afternoon as the kind of thing he signed up for when he became a firefighter nearly three decades ago.

"It's nice that the department recognizes a job well done, but quite honestly, the way we see it this is what we do," Swanson said.

"It's kind of what we expect in our job, it's what's expected of us," said Blake. "That's what they train us to do."

The department also recognized Luciana Showers, an 11-year-old who was babysitting her seven younger siblings on April 15 at their Near North Minneapolis home, when a fire started in the kitchen. After trying to extinguish the fire, she rounded up the children and got them out. At a neighbor's they called 911.

Tyner said the girl's actions "likely saved their lives."

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