Utica resident asking for change after man’s death during flood

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 27, 2020

 A Utica woman is asking for changes after flooding on Davis Drive prevented medical personnel from reaching a man who had collapsed from a heart attack Jan. 11.

A Utica woman is asking for changes after flooding on Davis Drive prevented medical personnel from reaching a man who had collapsed from a heart attack Jan. 11.

Photo provided by the Utica Police Department

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UTICA — A Utica woman is asking for changes to be made after tragedy struck during a rainstorm Jan. 11 in Utica.

Kathleen Irvine, of Utica, said that while having company over at her home on Davis Drive, near Van Dyke Avenue and M-59, a 59-year-old man had a heart attack outside the home and medical personnel were unable to get to him in time due to flooding caused by extensive rainfall.

The area where the man collapsed is prone to flooding and is also located next to the Clinton River.

“We had a rainstorm that went through, and we typically flood in the neighborhood, so we watched what was going on. It got to about five, six o’clock in the afternoon, and it didn’t appear that it was going to be a terrible flood, so we relaxed. We had some company over and were having a nice time. At one point, one of the gentlemen went outside to have a cigarette and saw that there was water on the road, so we made the decision to drive our vehicles up to dry land and walked back to our place, and one of the gentlemen that had gone up to the hill walked back before the other ones did and had a heart attack,” Irvine said in comments released through the Mike Morse Law Firm’s Open Mike Podcast.

The law firm said that Irvine wanted to share her story through the firm and not be contacted further.

The man had walked back from the vehicles that were now parked 100 feet from the home.

Irvine said she came out of the house and saw him lying in the driveway.

“We called EMS, and we had one policeman that came down to do chest compressions, and the rest of the rescue crew could not come down for almost an hour,” she said.

She said a police officer showed up in about 10 minutes and walked through the water and then helped administer CPR to the man after moving him inside the home. He also radioed for help, asking where the other medical personnel were with the ambulance and equipment.

The water was knee-high at the time and medical help could not get through the water.

Irvine  said that things used to be handled differently in Utica when a big storm was coming. She said that a police officer used to come down the road with a patrol car’s lights flashing when bad weather was coming to let residents know that the river was going to go over the banks. Residents were then able to get their vehicles and themselves to a safe place before the rain event.

She said that stopped about three to four years ago.

Irvine said she would like to bring changes to the city of Utica and its flood preparation and emergency response system.

According to the law firm, Irvine has no intention to file a lawsuit against the city and she doesn’t blame the city or the weather for the tragic event.

She also wanted to clarify some information that was being reported. Although the vehicle was stuck briefly, the 59-year-old man had not tried to push the vehicle, she said.

Irvine did not think that the water was too high for an ambulance to come to her house, but she said that she doesn’t blame the city.

She said the Police Department needs to give a warning that bad weather is coming, even in the middle of the night.

“The river does crest in the middle of the night, (and) people are sleeping and they’re not aware,” she said.

“Also, I think they need more equipment to get to that neighborhood if there is an emergency. Utica needs a boat of their own instead of waiting for Shelby (Township) to bring a boat,” said Irvine.

She said there are things that first responders can do that might give them a better idea of how deep the water is and what they can actually do.

Sean Coady, the Utica police chief, said that severe weather can put both people and their property at risk, and with the recent flood in Utica having lasted multiple days and that area being prone to flooding, it can be difficult.

“Do not underestimate Mother Nature, especially in a flood-prone area. The flooding observed in our city most recently was a multi-day weather event that was likely to put safety and property at risk. On behalf of the Utica Police Department and the city, our condolences go out (to) the family of the resident who passed during the flooding,” Coady said in an email.

Utica Mayor Thom Dionne said in an email that the city is saddened by the man’s death. Dionne recommended that those who are located near the river, or those who might experience flooding, plan ahead to prevent dangerous situations.

“It’s terribly sad that we lost a resident as a result of the flooding. We certainly mourn the loss. Everyone in the city feels the impact when we lose a neighbor or friend.

“This particular area of Davis (Drive) has been a known flood area for many years. When the Clinton River surges over the banks, it creates an active river that races through that area and can be very dangerous and destructive. I would encourage all of our residents to pre-plan for potential harmful situations and make efforts to be prepared to leave the residence if flooding is anticipated. On behalf of the residents, City Council and our first responders, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to the family as they, unfortunately, deal with the loss of a loved one,” he said.

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