Man arrested for driving through floodwaters while intoxicated

A 39-year-old Vallonia man was arrested Sunday after he became stranded in floodwaters while intoxicated, police report.

Michael Allan Phillips faces Class A misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and blood alcohol content of 0.15% or greater.

20190423st mug phillips, michael

Police were called to the 1000 block of South County Road 400W at 6:22 p.m. after the caller told dispatchers they watched a pickup truck drive through floodwaters.

The caller, Dave Hall, told police he saw Phillips back the truck into a ditch and become stranded in the water.

Hall and his father, Barry, drove a tractor to the area and helped Phillips from the vehicle. He said the ditch had between 10 and 12 feet of water in it.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Officer Mitch Ray responded to the scene and arrested Phillips. He also was cited $500 for disregarding road closure signs. That’s the limit for floodwater violations in the county.

Phillips was booked into the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown at 7:44 p.m. Sunday. He was released on a $705 bond at 7:38 a.m. Monday.

Phillips faces up to a year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine if convicted.

In February, Hall, who serves as president of the Jackson County council, proposed doubling the floodwater fine to $1,000 with half of the money to go to volunteer fire departments and the other half for educating the public on the dangers of driving through floodwaters.

The idea came after a busy winter in which 15 floodwater rescues were conducted between Dec. 1 and Feb. 1.

Police averaged an hour and six minutes from the time they were called to a rescue to when they were back in service during 12 of the 15 incidents for which data was available. The remaining three incidents were reported to county dispatchers but handled by other agencies.

Lt. Adam Nicholson, who provided the data, said that time includes the call, getting the necessary equipment, assessing the situation, making the rescue and post-rescue work. He said most of the rescues occur shortly after the call is made.

Nicholson said in many scenarios, motorists are rescued within minutes.

Many times, however, police have to wait for conservation officers assigned to the county or nearby counties to get their boats and respond.

Commissioners then formed a floodwater committee to look at updating the ordinance. The committee is made up of representatives of the sheriff’s department, highway department, conservation officers and county council and Barry Hall, who will represent the public.

Commissioner Drew Markel said that committee has not met yet.

The floodwater ordinance has not been updated since 2012.

The last floodwater rescue occurred April 12 when four people were rescued from the East Fork White River near Rockford.

In that incident, a 3-year-old fell in after walking on the dam.

Tristin Collins, 19, of Greensburg attempted to rescue the toddler when she and her 10-month-old baby fell in the water.

The toddler’s father, Travis Charles, 27, of Seymour, also fell in trying to rescue the three. Another man jumped in to try to save them, but was able get out on his own.

The group floated down the river until they reached a sandbar and waited for police.