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‘Daring’ rescue

Poarch Creek Fire Department personnel are credited with possibly saving the lives of two Florida residents who were badly injured when the car in which they were passengers went off a bridge over Interstate 65 and plunged into a deep ravine.

According to official reports and witness statements, the Poarch rescue personnel performed a “daring rope rescue” on January 29, rappelling from the bridge that spans I-65 at mile marker 59 and freeing three people from the vehicle, then pulling them topside, where medical crews waited.

According to reports from Alabama State Troopers, the mishap took place around 9:20 p.m. when Hemal Jayantibhai Parkekh, 47, of Sanford, Fla., who was driving a 2015 Ford Utility Truck apparently went to sleep and missed the bridge, causing the truck to plummet approximately 50 feet, where it landed right-side up.

Parkekh was not injured but his two passengers — 75-year-old Rambhai Baburat Valand and Kailasben Rambhai Valand, 66 — reportedly suffered critical injuries. Crews from Atmore Ambulance Service and ASAP Ambulance responded to the wreck, but the severity of the injuries called for more rapid transport.

Rambhai Baburat Valand was flown by medical evacuation helicopter to University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile, and Kailasben Rambhai Valand was flown by a second helicopter to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola.

A Poarch Creek Indians spokesperson said the tribe’s fire and rescue personnel are well-trained for such life-saving maneuvers.

“The Tribe maintains a highly trained and professional staff of fire and rescue personnel that serve our community, and the specialized training used during this rescue — rope rescue and extrication techniques — is what they relied on last week during the rescue on I-65,” said Sharon Delmar, PCI’s Public Relations Tribal Liaison.