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'The Adrenaline Kicked In': How Two Tow Truck Drivers Saved Stranger From Drowning on Flooded Road

WFMY-TV Greensboro logo WFMY-TV Greensboro 6/9/2019 Ben Smart
a man standing next to a road © Provided by TEGNA Inc.

Two tow truck drivers, one of them a retired firefighter, say they were in the "right place at the right time" when they rescued a man trapped on top of his car in floodwaters early Saturday morning.

Triad residents Danny Ward and Phillip Alston were driving back to their tow truck shop in the darkness of night when they suddenly encountered the emergency situation.

Two men driving separate cars became trapped in floodwaters at the bottom of a hill on Riverdale Drive in Jamestown, according to Ian Good, shift commander with Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department.

"We saw red lights in the distance," said Alston, one of the tow truck drivers. "We then saw the vehicle submerged underwater. A gentleman was down on all fours, just waving for help."

The loud, rushing floodwaters made it difficult to hear the man yelling from the car roof, but the pair said it was clear he was in life-threatening danger.

Alston and Ward jumped into action. Alston had previously worked as a firefighter in Brunswick County with swift water rescue certifications and other training. 

"Just being a firefighter 14 years, the adrenaline kicked in, 'What can I do to help,' we just got into it, jumped on it," said Alston.

One reason they chose to make the risky rescue: The man in danger was closer to the two truck drivers than the first responders on the other side of the water, said Ward and Alston.

"Something spoke to me, something said, 'Dude, we've got to go do this,' I felt like this was our calling, that's what we were put there to do was that," said Ward.

The pair backed their tow truck as close to the water's edge as they safely could. Then, they prepared their winch cable as a method to pull the man to dry land.

Ward next began to swim in the water toward the man stuck on his car roof.

"I had to swim at least 30 feet," said Ward. "It was definitely deep.... it was extremely cold. It stunk, only thing I was worried about was trying to get that man to safety. Because the only think I could think of was that man has somebody at home."

a man standing next to a road: Triad residents Danny Ward and Phillip Alston explain their daring rescue. © WFMY News 2 Triad residents Danny Ward and Phillip Alston explain their daring rescue.

Once Ward reached the man with the winch cable, they were reeled back out of the water.

 "It was dangerous, it really was. It was really risky, with no life jacket or anything, it was really risky, but I just wanted to help him, that's it," said Ward.

"You risk a lot to save a lot," said Alston.

One of the two victims was taken to the hospital by first responders, according to Good with the Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department. His condition was not known as of 4 p.m. Sunday.

About 20 to 25 first responders were on scene for the rescue with life rafts and emergency gear, including Guilford County Dive Team, Guilford County EMS, Guilford County Sheriff's Office, High Point Fire Department, and High Point Dive Team, according to Good.

A 911 call for help came in at 12:15 a.m. Saturday, Good said.

While this Good Samaritan rescue turned out fine, Good warns that the public should not place themselves in danger to save other people.

"They shouldn't have been going in the water. They didn't have proper training and were not wearing life jackets," said Good. "I understand wanting to be a hero, but we don't want to add them to the chaos."

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