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Dramatic rescue under bridge in flooded river

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Rescuers were forced to cut through a concrete bridge to rescue a screaming teenage girl trapped by floodwaters in an air pocket underneath the span, police said Sunday.

The girl, whose two male companions were quickly rescued from the raging East River after their canoe overturned, was swept under the bridge and became caught in debris in the girders underneath, police said.

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Rescuers cut an air hole in the bridge and then used a special saw to slice through the deck to pull the girl, who was trapped for three hours, to safety, police said.

The rescue late Saturday came as extensive flooding in Southeast Green Bay and nearby towns continued a day after the region was hit by 5 inches of rain and strong northeast winds.

The three people had been canoeing in the flooded river when their boat was caught in the strong current and flipped over near the bridge, said Sgt. Matt Tochterman, a Green Bay police officer who supervised the rescue.

'When I first got there, I didn't think there was any chance there could be a survivor.

'Fortunately, a bystander could just barely hear the screams. With the water rushing so fast, I don't know how he could hear her,' Tochterman said. 'We had to press our ears against the railing. The metal railing carried the vibrations of her voice up. That's how we found her.'

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Scuba divers then tried to free the girl,identified as Carol Jicha, 14, but she was trapped by the debris.

'We had to drill a hole in the bridge to rescue her,' Tochterman said. 'She got hung up on one of the girders, fortunately, instead of getting swept down the river.'

Rescuers used a special saw to cut through the concrete and were cheered by onlookers when they pulled Jicha to safety. She was treated and released at a local hospital.

'There was definitely a lot of luck involved,' Tochterman said. 'It was really nice to have a lot of people standing around and applauding the police for once.'

The girl's companions, Gerodo Balli, 14, and Daniel Timm, 24, also suffered only minor injuries.

The rescue was the most dramatic moment in a day of floods and evacuations caused by Friday's storms. Green Bay Mayor Sam Halloin declared a state of disaster in the city as flood waters shut down several roads.

The rain had stopped Saturday, but strong northeast wind continued to blow water from the bay of Green Bay into the mouth of the Fox River and its East River tributary, said Brown County Sheriff's Captain Ted VanRossum, county emergency government director.

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