David Phung, others recognized for selfless acts of kindness during August 2016 flooding

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - David Phung became an instant hero last August.

He and two other men were in a boat with WAFB's Robbie Reynold. Reynold was shooting footage of the historic flooding. Not long after the trip began, they noticed a red car almost covered by flood water.

"I knew I had to do everything, at all costs to get her out alive," said Phung.

You can see in the dramatic video, as the car continues to sink, Phung attempts to break the window to pull the woman out.

"Seconds felt like minutes because the adrenaline was just flowing through," said Phung.

Phung said he quickly realized if he was going to save the woman, he'd have to jump in.

"That's when I jumped in the water, ripped the vinyl top open and pulled the woman out," Phung recalled.

But Phung's work was not over.

"Her first words were, get my dog and that's when I realized that this lady might not go back to the boat without her dog," said Phung.

Phung dove down again and came back up with the woman's dog. All three return to the boat, shocked but safe.

Once realizing this dramatic rescue was caught on camera, one might think Phung jumped at the chance to watch himself in action, but no. Phung said he went weeks without taking a glance. Remember, this all happened at the start of the flood.

"I was just helping people long into the night and when I'd get home, I'd crash and wake up and didn't really have time to settle down. I knew that the waters were still affecting people and I had to offer help," said Phung.

Friday morning, Phung was presented the Silver Lifesaving Medal by Rear Adm. Dave Callahan, Commander of the 8th Coast Guard District.

"We saw just ordinary citizens step up and do extraordinary things," said Callahan.

The Coast Guard said that award is one of the oldest and highest awards available to military and civilians for heroic actions. Phung's name was added to a short list of recipients since the award was established in 1874. Only 1,159 people have been given that prestigious recognition.

"For us in the business of life-saving, when we see that again I mentioned we're trained to do this...it's our job and we do it well and know there are risks involved but when we see people...they don't sign up for that. This is something that they out of their humanitarian nature, they step up and do and it's worthy of recognition," said Rear Adm. Callahan.

The other three men on the boat, Brandon Barrett, Jason Dixon and Reynold also got awards, The Meritorious Public Service Medal.

"I just did not want to see this lady die in front of my eyes," said Phung.

Callahan said he hopes the award recipients' honorable actions remind the community to seize opportunities to make the world a better place.

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