Rescuers freed a 15-year-old boy from the crumpled wreckage of a delivery truck that plunged into Blue Lakes early Wednesday, leaving his head only inches above the water.
The boy, who was trapped next to the body of his dead father, spent about 90 minutes submerged up to his chest in the frigid lake before firefighters managed to cut him free from the truck.
The boy was conscious and talking as firefighters worked feverishly to prevent the truck from slipping deeper into the lake and free the teen, said Pat Brown, deputy chief of the Northshore Fire Protection District, whose firefighters performed the complex rescue.
“He was very, very lucky,” Brown said. “This was definitely one of the most intense rescues Northshore has ever done.”
The father, a 45-year-old McKinleyville man whose name was not released by authorities, had taken his son with him early Wednesday on a delivery run.
The 5:55 a.m. crash started when a Cotati man driving a big-rig tanker carrying milk lost control on a curve and overturned on Highway 20, a busy connector route from Highway 101 in Mendocino County north of Ukiah to Upper Lake in Lake County.
The big-rig, which was heading west, skidded into the oncoming lane and sideswiped the delivery truck, which was heading east with a load of frozen food, the CHP said.
The delivery truck careened off the highway into a large oak tree, CHP Officer Kory Reynolds said. Pulling the tree with it, the delivery truck then slid down a steep embankment into the lake.
Water filled the compartment, submerging the father but stopping at chest level of the pinned youth, Brown said.
The front end of the cab had collapsed against the length of the boy's legs, holding him to the seat.
His father remained seat-belted next to him.
A huge contingent of emergency workers responded to the crash, including 16 Northshore firefighters, two Lakeport firefighters, CHP officers and Lake County sheriff's deputies.