Stamford firefighters use rowboat to rescue students during flood

September 26, 2018

STAMFORD — It was easy to mistake Dale Street for a river on Tuesday afternoon.

Not only did the almost four inches of rain turn the East Side street into a waterway, but Stamford firefighters were rowing a boat through the roadway to rescue students stranded on a school bus.

As Bus 172 from Rogers International School turned onto Dale Street during the torrential downpours, it found itself submerged in water up to the front bumper and stalled in the middle of the road with 31 students from grades K-8 inside.

Deputy Chief Matthew Palmer said the fire department received a call about the bus around 3:50 p.m. amidst a flurry of other calls from stranded drivers whose cars were submerged in the flooding around the city.

“There was considerable flooding on Dale,” Palmer said. “(It) looked like a giant pond.”

While the students were not in danger, Capt. Ryan Kerwin was concerned about the floodwater which was above the heads of many students, as well as the possibility of manhole covers popping off due to water pressure.

“The school bus was about a football field length from dry land,” Kerwin said. “The scene was a little chaotic. There were multiple bystanders, including parents in the middle of the street.”

Using poles, Kerwin and his crew felt their way to the bus which was submerged up to its top step. The students were unharmed and in good spirits, but Kerwin had to get creative when the heavy-duty tow truck called to remove the bus from the road couldn’t get through.

Luckily, a good Samaritan on the street had a solution: a rowboat. In groups of four at a time, the firefighters shuttled the students in life vests to a second school bus parked on Cove Road. Students were then taken back to Rogers, where they received pizza and were picked up by their parents.

Kerwin said he has not seen flooding this extensive in the 15 years he’s been with the department, but he was impressed by the students who looked out for their younger peers and siblings while evacuating.

“They just showed great response to direction,” Kerwin said. “They remained calm — they were very brave. You can see the compassion they had for their fellow schoolmates...I’m a parent myself of three young children. In that situation, I’d hope they’d react the same way.”

According to the Stamford Health Department, 3.7 inches of rain fell around the government center on Tuesday.

The Stamford Water Pollution Control Authority reported a subsequent sewage spill and raw sewage bypass at the water pollution control facility due to the record high amount of rain, which led to 10,000 gallons of spillage into the East Branch of Stamford Harbor.

erin.kayata@stamfordadvocate.com; (203) 964-2265; @erin_kayata

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