Police chief trapped by downed power lines

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. —

A north Georgia police chief responding to flooded roads escaped a dangerous situation when power lines fell on his vehicle.

East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan nearly got electrocuted on Thursday morning when he arrived at a flooded section of Riverside Drive near the Cartecay River.

"When we have a flood that's where we have to evacuate, it's a given," Callahan told Channel 2's Richard Elliot. “I’ve been in law enforcement here for 24 years and I’ve never seen it come up that fast."

Callahan said he tried to drive through a high water point and had to get out of the car as water started rising. He went to try and get into the car to put it in neutral when a tree fell.

“As the tree came down it hit me and I went in the water. As I went in the water I saw the power lines in the tree. I knew it wasn’t going to be good,” Callahan said.

Callahan jumped onto the trunk of his car just as he felt a huge jolt of electricity.

“Everything just went white. The original jolt, I don’t know, the good Lord looked after me,” he said.

Callahan said he woke up but couldn't get out of his vehicle because the live electrical wire had energized the car and surrounding waters.

“I thought I could get back in the water but the sticks and things floating by were sizzling,” he said. “Probably for the first time ever I thought, ‘Maybe this is it.’”

Callahan said he was able to call dispatch on his radio for help.

“Called my wife, left her a message and waited,” Callahan said.  “I just told her I loved her and left it at that.”

Fortunately, Fannin County firefighters responding to a mutual aid call arrived at the scene and happened to have a rubber raft.

“The law of physics says you can’t float a rubber raft upstream, but they managed it,” Callahan said.

The emergency team floated over to Callahan, pulled him from the car and paddled to safety.

Callahan said his limbs are still numb and tingling but he is back at work.