Two women, puppies, saved by LA Sheriff's helicopter in swift water rescue

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In what has become a common scene during Southland storms, a swift-water rescue crew plucked two women and 10 dogs from a homeless encampment on an island in the rain-swollen San Gabriel River near El Monte Friday.

Rescue crews from the county fire and sheriff's departments responded to the area north of the Pomona (60) Freeway about 5:15 a.m. and spotted two women clinging to debris in the fast-moving river, according to the sheriff's department.

Crews waited until after daybreak before moving in with a helicopter and lowering a medic to hoist both victims to safety. After both women were pulled from the water and taken to safety, the rescue team returned to the
island to retrieve four dogs and six puppies.

Ray Ayala told ABC7 his two brothers and their girlfriends were living on the river island, and they got separated early Friday morning during the brunt of the storm. He said one of his brothers called 911, and while the men
were able to escape the river, the women were stranded.

``This is nature, you know,'' Ayala said. ``My brothers (didn't) choose to live like this, it's just something they have to do.''

Fire officials said they worked to clear homeless encampments in riverbeds prior to the storm, but not everyone gets word in advance, and such rescues are a common occurrence during heavy rain.

``Not everybody listens, not everybody sees it on the news, not everybody sees it on TV,'' Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Joey Marron told Channel 7.

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