The actions to save six lives stranded in high waters took the combined efforts of two brave fire firefighters and a resident.
Waxahachie firefighters Jason Eubanks and John Seaberry and resident Russell Adamson were awarded a commendation on Thursday for those actions on a Sept. 22, when the three worked together during the rescue on Red Oak Creek in Rockett.
Red Oak firefighters initially received the high-water rescue call. While en route, they requested for additional assistance. Rescue operations were underway when Waxahachie Fire arrived on scene to assist on the call at about 7 a.m.
Seaberry stated that, before their boat was launched, the firefighters learned that Red Oak’s inflatable boat had capsized, leaving four residents and two firefighters in the water. The radio was lost, and the only way to signal everyone was safe was with a whistle.
“At first, Russell and his son were saying don’t go over here in this direction because there is a barbed wire fence,” Seaberry said. “Jason and myself said, 'if you feel like you are a decent swimmer get in.' So we gave him one of our life jackets, filled up with five other life jackets, and took him with us.”
While Waxahachie’s boat was deploying, Red Oak firefighters, Justin Slovak and Los Horn were able to gather the four people together until additional assistance arrived.
Russell stated he offered his assistance because he thought could provide firefighters with valuable information to help in the rescue efforts.
“When they showed up, we heard the whistle blowing. I jumped in because I know the woods,” Adamson said. “I knew where some of the cut-throughs and where some of the old trails were so we could take this big boat through.”
As the three set out, Seaberry drove the boat, Russell navigated, and Eubanks searched for people and debris.
Eubanks explained the water’s current was strong, moving large objects such as telephone poles.
When the trio located the stranded individuals, they found one of them clinging onto a tree. One by one, the three were able to get the family of four into the boat. Slovak and Horn were able to self-extricate.
“All three of us were talking about what to do with the boat and what trees to grab hold of,” Adamson said. “We told everyone to get their arms back behind the trees. Mr. Eubanks and I started grabbing people and started pulling them into the boat.”
Eubanks shared he felt a sense of relief once they were able to get the family out of the water and safely into the boat.
“I was happy that we got them out of the water and got them out safely,” Eubanks said. “We don’t do our job to get to get recognized. We do it because it is our job, and we love helping people.”
Seaberry shared Eubanks feelings, stating that he is honored for the recognition, but it is not something they seek.
“I am flattered, but it is not necessary,” Seaberry said. “It is our job. I told everyone. 'thank you very much.' It means a lot to my family and me. It is what we do.”
Adamson stated he was proud to have lent a hand in this rescue.
“You see it on TV — people getting rescued — and you think you will never live that,” Adamson said. “To get with other people and go save a life like that it was an experience and I was honored to help. I would go with them again.”
Red Oak Fire Chief Eric Thompson stated he is proud of the teamwork shown by all of those involved in the difficult conditions.
“The rescuers did a great job of gathering every one of the people together after the boat had capsized keeping them safe,” Thompson said. “The incident command did a great job of seeing the need for additional assistance early on and integrating it into the rescue operations when the boat capsized."
Thompson stated the overall result was positive with no fatalities or injuries. He noted the incident would help the department become stronger as they train throughout the year.
“We are grateful for the assistance and the ongoing positive relationship we have with each (fire department) daily,” Thompson said. “By us working together it is better for the community, safety on the rescue and first responders.”