The Heroes of Elliot Road

The Heroes of Elliot Road

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It is arguably THE piece of the video that carried south Louisiana's struggle around the world - a lifesaving rescue that was caught on camera.

It may not surprise many that the heroes of that day don't consider themselves heroes at all. They said they were just in the right place at right time, which is exactly what a hero would say. Checking in with them nearly a year later offers an even closer look at those incredible few moments that had everybody gasping for breath.

When they first motored up to the scene, they weren't thinking the outcome was going to be a good one.

"What crossed my mind is that I don't want to see somebody die right in front of me," David Phung said of that day back in August 2016.

He's the one who jumped into the water, but he wasn't the only one on the boat. WAFB's Robbie Reynold was onboard as well. He was behind the camera as it all played out. Beginning with the moment a little red car rolled down the road.

"It sounds weird given what happened, but we were kind of laughing," Reynold remembered from that day. "We thought this woman was going to stop. We didn't think she was going to try and drive all the way through that river."

A river is basically what Elliot Road, which is just off Tiger Bend in Baton Rouge, had turned into. Phung and a couple family members, Jay Dixon and nephew, Brandon Barrett, were on his boat that day. None of them could believe how high the water had risen.

"You couldn't see the road," Barrett said. "Most of these houses were almost completely under. You could barely see some mailboxes."

The story now shifts back to that little red car as it went driving by.

"We knew she was going to stall out," Dixon said. "Just the volume of water. We didn't know what was going to happen. We thought we were just going to pull up beside her, she'd get in the boat, and we'd be fine."

But, of course, that's not what happened.

"I get a little concerned at about this point. We didn't hear anything. We don't hear her yelling until maybe about this point," Reynold explained as he watched video of that day again.

That's after they had turned around and started making their way to where she had stalled out. The car was now floating … nose down. And it was sinking quickly.

"It was internal panic, but everybody knows this is the time to stay calm and figure this out," Dixon added.

They first tried to bust the window. But that wasn't working and the car was disappearing into the floodwaters fast. Just a small pocket of air was all that was left. So, they thought about cutting it open. It's a boat, so it's safe to assume that Phung surely has a knife somewhere on it, right?

"I ran to the back of the boat and dumped out his toolbox, on the floor, looking for something that could cut. Then, I heard a splash. I turn around and saw that he was ripping the top off at that point," Dixon said of that moment.

Phung remembers it, too, of course. The seconds seemed like minutes, he said. It was actually a good thing it seemed to be moving so slowly, because time was running out.

"As soon as I ripped it open, I saw her hands. Good thing she wasn't still buckled up. That would have been … who knows?" Phung commented.

But, of course, that's not how it ended. A life was saved and it was caught on camera. She was literally pulled from beneath the waters. And the thing that happened next is what Jay Dixon described as icing on the cake. There was one more life to save. A little dog was in the car as well.

"He told me afterwards that he was just feeling around and he felt fur. He grabbed it and just ripped it up," Reynold recalled.

That's pretty much how David remembers it, as well, as he described it.

"Took a deep breath and went under. Feeling all around. All kinds of stuff floating - cups, her purse. Luckily, felt a little fur, yanked it out and there's the dog," Phung explained.

And then, it was back to the boat with two lives saved. It was time to catch a breath and maybe take a moment to think about what just happened. Phung said it took him a good couple of days for everything to sink in. Now, a full year later, he's better able to understand that he was part of something pretty incredible down that road. It's a road he travels a lot, but never by boat. He hopes that was the first and only time.

Of course, that is the hope of everyone, because there is no guarantee that it will be a hero pulling up in that boat the next time someone need them.

"I would say lucky and right place, right time," Phung added of that incredible day.

And those words seem exactly like something a hero would say.

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