Fireman who went missing during rescue operations found alive

Fire Officer 1 Nick Steven Cañete of Ajuy Fire Station

By Jennifer P. Rendon

A bit of good news on a gloomy day.

A fireman was found alive and well after he went missing while taking part in the rescue operations in the flooded town of Ajuy, Iloilo.

Fire Officer 1 Nick Steven Cañete of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Ajuy Station was found three hours after he was reported missing.

Cañete, a native of Negros Occidental province, managed to get away from the raging flood waters and ended up in an inundated house at Barangay Pinantan Elizalde, Ajuy.

Earlier, Fire Chief Superintendent Jerry Candido, BFP-Region 6 director, reported that one of their personnel went missing after responding to a call for assistance at Pinantan Elizalde village.

Cañete and several other BFP personnel arrived at the police station around 9 p.m. after conducting a whole day rescue operation.

“He was about to call it a day since an augmentation force was on their way to Ajuy. But they decided to respond since it’s an emergency,” he said.

Cañete, who was driving the firetruck, went with two other personnel. They initially thought that the house could be reached by the fire truck.

But it turned out that it was far from the highway, and the way to the area was dark.

Midway to the scene, he told his two companions that he will just go back to their parked vehicle to move it near their target house.

As he went back to the firetruck, he stepped on an uneven portion of the road, lost his balance, and got swept by the strong water current.

Cañete just went with the current instead of resisting.

“Majority of our personnel were trained for water search and rescue. He knew that he should allow himself to be swept for him to preserve his energy,” Candido said.

At some point, Cañete allegedly pushed to a shallow portion with no strong water current.

But after a while, floodwaters again gushed in and swept him away.

Cañete stayed afloat until he bumped into a house with three persons who got trapped inside.

“He stayed afloat for almost three hours,” Candido said.

Cañete allegedly knew that his two other companions and other BFP personnel would look for him.

Candido said that BFP personnel proceeded with the search operations and rescued a father and his children.

At some point, Candido said he was torn between looking for Cañete and for the safety of the other personnel.

“But in the end, I couldn’t just allow a personnel to go missing without exerting all efforts to look for him,” he said.

Cañete later saw the lights carried by the BFP rescuers and called out for help. He and the other trapped persons were rescued at past 12 a.m. of April 12.

“It was mind over matter for Cañete. I’m just thankful that they were able to practice what they have learned in the training,” he said.

Candido said other BFP personnel in Agaton-hit provinces have been mobilized for search and rescue operations.