Rising waters trap 5 men in auto shop

Heavy rains overwhelmed a tributary to a creek near North Tryon Street and Atando Road Saturday night, trapping five men in an auto body shop and potentially sending gasoline, oil and other contaminants downstream.

Members of the fire department's swift water rescue team used life rafts to rescue the men, who were in contact with fire officials the whole time and telling dispatchers how they were trapped in rising water that came as high as their chests, said Battalion Chief Quentin Maver.

“They went inside the shop to seek cover from the rain,” Maver said, “and the next thing they knew, the water was rising.”

There were about 100 cars outside the auto body shop, Maver said, and some fuel, oil and other chemicals seeped out of the vehicles and into the water. The amount of chemicals that went downstream wasn't immediately clear.

Firefighters doing water readings in the immediate area didn't find significant levels of chemicals in the tributary, Maver said, but the water was moving fast and he had sent other teams downstream. An environmental health team will also investigate.

Firefighters were planning to make reverse 911 calls to let people in the affected areas know that petroleum products might have seeped into the water.