DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Following hours of torrential rain Monday, three Dallas Police officers were scouring a thicket that was engulfed in raging floodwaters off Northwest Highway near Flagpole Hill.
It was 11:30 p.m., and they were searching for a voice that cut through the darkness –– a nearby store owner called 911 after hearing a man calling out from behind the tree line.
“He just heard a man inside the trees, the flooded trees, yelling for help; a man screaming for help,” said officer Kyle Tholl.
Northeast Division colleagues Nicholas Smith and Brandon Rickmon joined Tholl during the search. They said they could hear the man before they saw him.
“Everytime that we would respond, ‘Where are you at?’ or ‘Holler out at us,’ he would just say, ‘Help me,’ or he would say, ‘I’m here,’” said Rickmon. “He was scared.”
When the officers found the man, the group had to act quickly. None of them had ever performed a rescue like what they were about to attempt.
They described the victim as cold and weak, clinging for life in raging water that was chock full of debris. The officers moved in before Dallas Fire Rescue crews could set up –– but they weren’t sure what awaited them below the surface.
So they used nearby construction markers as prods.
“We used that as almost like a depth finder to let me know where the deep holes were, let us know, and then we navigated around all the tree debris and everything else,” Tholl said
The officers slowly waded into the water after the man, still not knowing how deep the water was.
“It was 15 feet before we started getting waist deep, and who knows how deep it was further out there,” Smith, a three-year veteran, said. “It was definitely cold, it was still raining at that point.”
Once they reached the man, the officers said they convinced the victim to crawl over debris, making it easier for them to reach him. It took about an hour to reach the man and another hour to get him to the hospital.
“We were able to get him to come over one of those logs and we went and engaged him, and brought him back across to safer ground,” Tholl said.
The victim thanked the officers and was taken to Doctor’s Hospital. The man is homeless and was living in a wooded area near where he was rescued. He didn’t see the floodwaters coming.
Meanwhile, the rescuers went to a nearby fire station and reflected on their heroic actions.
“It wasn’t the safest,” Tholl said.
“I checked it off my bucket list,” Smith added.
The area off Northwest Highway near White Rock Creek has been under construction since 2009.
“Historically there have been flooding issues at this location,” said TxDOT engineer Paul Williams. “This construction project, which should be completed by summer, early fall should mitigate those problems.”
The state is elevating the bridge from Buckner Blvd. to West Lawther Ave. as part of the construction project.