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Firefighters rescuing woman become victims themselves

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Mo. -- A  water rescue almost turned deadly for three firefighters attempting to save a woman from flood waters.

Johnson County, Missouri firefighters Andrew Oglesby, Chase Neill and Kyle Lewis were called to save a woman who's car was stuck in flood waters Thursday. When they arrived at the scene, where Highway 44 crosses over Post Oak Creek, they found the woman on top of her car, surrounded by water. The current was too strong for firefighters to walk through the water, so they used jet skis to get her.

Firefighters Neill and Lewis were on one jet ski, Oglesby on another. While on the way out in the string current, Oglesby's jet ski lost power and he began drifting downstream.

"I saw him bale off the ski. I talked to Chase, we decided to go after him, " said Lewis.

"Unfortunately when we did turn around, the water came up over the back of us and took us down as well, and all three of us were in the water," said Neill.

The three firefighters, being swept away in the 20 mile an hour current could see each other for only a couple of minutes before losing sight of each other.

"It was definitely a lonely feeling," said  Lewis.

The three trained firefighters, armed with safety gear and life jackets fought the raging flood waters for an hour-and-a-half before each were able to save themselves.

"I was trying to pull on to some trees. I grabbed some branches and each time it just kept pulling me under," said Neill.

Oglesby grabbed a tree.

"I snagged one tree. It pushed me toward the bank, I saw another tree closer. I let go, drifted to the second tree and I saw a third tree. Drifted to that tree and I was able to get to the bank, so it is nothing short of a miracle those trees were there," he said.

Another miracle was happening just upstream.

"I found one, grabbed a branch and luckily pulled myself out," said Neill.

Oglesby and Neill found each other and celebrating for a brief moment realized their brother Lewis was still missing. As they started searching for Lewis, he was about a mile upstream. Lewis was the first to find a safe landing.

"As they floated past me, I ran into what we call a strainer which is kind of an underground branch. What saved me was my life jacket saved me from being sucked under the branch. I grabbed a tree beside me and ended up climbing up into the tree and was out of the water," said Lewis.

Missouri State Highway Patrol and other local area fire departments started a search for the missing firefighters. About two hours later, all three were accounted for and reunited at the Western Missouri Medical Center.

"We are very blessed to sill be here. It's nothing short of a miracle that all three of us made it out of there," said Oglesby. "If I didn't have that life jacket on, I probably wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today."

After stories, hugs and a few tears, the firefighters were ready to move forward with their lives. Andrew Oglesby plans to continue working at the Johnson County Fire District, as well as continue his job as a corporate pilot.

Chase Neill will graduate from UCM in May and then join the Navy. Kyle Lewis plans to take a leave of absence from the JoCo Fire District and head to Colorado to fight wildfires until September.

The woman was successfully rescued by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

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