Forney first responders and a good Samaritan jumped into action Saturday afternoon to rescue a man who had been swept away by the strong current of the Trinity River.
Officer Laramie Kennedy got the call around 3:50 p.m. of a man stuck in the rushing water and went to U.S. Highway 80 at the Trinity River Bridges to try to find him. Kennedy saw a partially submerged but empty truck in an overflow area.
"From reading the call notes ... it sounded like it was more of an elderly individual, and so knowing how strong that river current is, we just had a few minutes to get there because there was no way he could've held on much longer than what he did," Kennedy said. "It was key for us to get there as quick as possible."
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While the man clung to a root system in the cold water, he told the 911 dispatcher he could see a gray pipe.
Kennedy had been to the area before — a popular fishing spot where vehicles sometimes get stuck — and remembered having seen a gray pipe further east. He headed that way and yelled for the man until he heard a barely audible "hey" and saw the top of the man's head.
He drove over to the edge of the bridge, about 125 feet south of the highway, and Kennedy and the good Samaritan, Daniel Washburn, started running.
"We went through a creek bed and then through a pretty thick marsh area and finally made way to him," Kennedy said. "Mr. Washburn, come to find out, he was right behind me and didn't skip a beat."
Kennedy started to take off his vest and belt to get into the water.
"Mr. Washburn, he beats me to it, he jumps right on in and starts holding onto the guy to make sure he doesn't go anywhere," Kennedy said.
Washburn said he was driving back from work when he saw the emergency playing out in the river below. Moments after he parked his pickup, he was in the water to help.
“(The victim) was saying, 'I’m about to pass out, I’m not going to make it.' So I just took off my boots and jumped in," Washburn said. "I grabbed hold of him and a root and said just relax man I’ve got you. I’m not going to let you go down the river."
Kennedy grabbed some rope and they tied the man off and held him until more firefighters arrived to help pull the man out of the water and up the 12-foot embankment.
They got a life preserver on the man and got him up the embankment and to safety, where they could tend to him, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the man had health needs but was in "pretty good spirits" and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Kennedy said it was unclear how the man's truck got stuck, but it appeared that he passed a stretch of roadway that was underwater and drove into the overflow area. The man told first responders he spent the night in the truck and at some point Saturday got out to move to safety and tried to cross the river when he got swept up by the current.
"It's part of my job and I think it's my duty to make sure that the citizens are safe, ... I would risk my life to save somebody else's," Kennedy said. "The reward of knowing that he was safe and that we were able to get him out of the water makes everything for my job."
The police department thanked the Forney Fire Department, Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office, Kaufman County Precinct 2 Constables Office, and CareFlite EMS for their help.
Washburn is a hero who saved the man's life, Kennedy said.
"There's multiple people who passed by but this one individual stopped his day and ran through everything I did," Kennedy said. "I really think God was watching out for us both and watching out for our elderly individual who was in the water as well."