AIRMEN SAVE COUPLE FROM FLASH FLOOD
By Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika, 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 16, 2014
LAS VEGAS (AFNS) -- Seven Airmen from Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada saved an elderly couple during a flash flood Aug. 4.
Three Airmen from the 820th RED HORSE, three members of the 799th Air Base Squadron and one Airman from the 432nd Maintenance Group teamed up during the harrowing rescue, which was caught on tape.
All of the Airmen were headed home from worksites at Creech that afternoon. Tech. Sgt. Adam Dixon, the first 820th RED HORSE responder, saw the elderly couple's Toyota Prius stuck in the median after they had attempted to evade the rapidly rising water by crossing over U.S. Route 95, north of Las Vegas.
"The water was flowing over the shoulder and cutting across the road; so people were backing up and crossing the median, which was actually lower than the interstate," Dixon said. "At that point we started seeing cars get stuck in the mud."
Dixon and Airmen 1st Class Joshua Parnell and Christopher Jones, both from the 799th ABS, first tried to push the car out of the mud, but it wasn't budging.
"Within seconds the water went from being at boot level to waist level, so I knew we just needed to get them out of there," Dixon said.
As the water level picked up, the current's force grew as well. Fighting the treacherous floodwaters to pull the car door open proved tough enough, but keeping it open long enough for the couple to escape seemed to be nearly an impossible task.
"I saw Sergeant Dixon on the driver's side yelling for them to get out, so I ran to that side to help him hold the door open," said Staff Sgt. James Maxwell, the second RED HORSE responder. "It was pretty intense because we could see another car floating toward us, and we didn't want to get pinned by it."
That, along with the frantic screams of bystanders to get out of the water, provided just the adrenaline rush they needed to pry the door open. The elderly man quickly exited the vehicle, but his wife needed additional assistance.
"Sergeant Dixon got her close to me, and I grabbed her and carried her up to higher ground," said Airman 1st Class Christopher Fitzgerald, the third RED HORSE responder. "It all happened so fast that I didn't really think; it was just all reaction."
Meanwhile Parnell and Staff Sgt. Tye Warner, another member of the 799th ABS, repositioned cars on the highway to prevent other motorists from being caught and swept into the melee.
After the couple was safe on the embankment of the median, Airman 1st Class Tyler Webb, a 432nd MQ-9 Reaper avionics specialist who also had been assisting in the rescue, tried to exit the floodwaters but was swept away by the raging current.
Jones, a fitness technician, reacted instinctively and without hesitation. He grabbed Webb and yanked him from the water, which was now strong enough to carry away multiple 3,000-plus-pound vehicles, including Webb's Mercury Grand Marquis.
"I just saw an arm and a head flying down the water and was like, 'I'm going to pull him out and hope I don't fall in,' " Jones said. "It was the right thing to do."
As for the elderly couple, they were shaken up but uninjured and appreciative of their heroes. Had the rescue taken even a few more seconds, Dixon said the results could have been gravely different.
"Right after the couple got out, their car floated down the median," he said. "Seconds after that we saw it upside down. ... I'm just happy they were both OK."