Father swept away in flood water dies; wife, children rescued

The man was identified as Jorge Luis Cantu.
Updated: Jun. 17, 2019 at 6:18 PM EDT
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SPENCER COUNTY, Ky. (WAVE) – A man died after his vehicle was swept away in flood waters.

Emergency crews responded to a report of a water rescue on Old Heady Road at Plum Creek Road around 1:40 a.m. Monday, Spencer County Sheriff Scott Herndon said.

Herndon said the car was swept away when the driver tried to cross a flooded bridge.

The man’s wife and two children, who were inside the vehicle were rescued, and the sheriff said it is a miracle that they were saved.

Herndon said the man, identified as Jorge Luis Cantu Jr., of Shelbyville, was found by a resident in the 500 block of Creek Valley Road.

Burdette Park said he heard about what happened on the news and searched the area around his home and found Cantu’s body and called police.

The sheriff’s department said Cantu went down the creek almost a mile, and was lodged in a pile of logs along the south bank.

UPDATE: We received a 911 call after 8:00 am this morning from a property owner on the location of the deceased victim....

Posted by Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Protection District on Monday, June 17, 2019

"He was actually in my stream that runs through the middle of my property," Park said. "Unfortunately I couldn't reach him due the water."

Park said authorities had to use jet skis to get to Cantu.

The woman was found in the water, holding onto a tree.

According to a post by the Taylor-Spencer County Fire Protection District, “a child that was about 1/4 of a mile down stream that had made it to the bank. Then, another child was located down stream on the bank by a KSP Trooper.”

Karen Koontz and her family said their Ring doorbell camera captured video of Cantu’s daughter looking for help.

“She walked around almost like she was disoriented,” Koontz said.

Koontz lives a few doors away from the bridge that flooded. She said she believes she came to her home off Veech Road looking for help.

“Maybe she had got out of the car and up the hill and saw our lights,” Koontz said.

Koontz said her family didn’t hear the girl, but when they woke up and noticed the alert from their doorbell camera, they went looking.

Her son, David, said he knows the bridge can be trouble.

“We drove down here and the next thing you see is ambulance, cop cars, fire department,” David Koontz said.

Police said the family was returning from a Father’s Day celebration when the vehicle was swept away. The home where the celebration took place is not far from the flooded bridge. A woman who lives at the home where the party happened declined to speak to WAVE 3 News.

Crews who were searching by boat suspended their search around 4 a.m. due to swift water conditions.

A drone also was used to search for the man.

People who live in the area said that when there is heavy rain, the bridge is often a problem.

“Very disheartening,” Park said. “I just hope that there is a way to prevent that from happening again. The road is tricky because it’s a 90-degree turn, and if you haven’t been to the area, it’s hard to tell where the water is and is not.”

Residents in the area said guardrails would help.

By late Monday afternoon, a WAVE 3 News crew noticed the water receding enough for drivers to return to using the bridge.

Herndon said the bridge was replaced several years ago.

“It had a wash-over bridge that would be a lot deeper when you went across it,” he said. "This is a new-and-improved bridge, I’m thinking it’s five or six years old. But with the amount of rain we’ve had ... it’s still flooding over top of that bridge. When it was put in, it had bigger culverts to handle the water, but we’ve just had so much rain that it couldn’t handle it.

“They made a bad decision by driving across it. It went into the water very quickly, as soon as they got into the water. If there’s water on the bridge, it’s not worth it or a low place in the road, it’s just not worth it. Drive around. Take a few extra minutes to save your life.”

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