CHIRENO, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches Public Works Supervisor Dody Howard had his mind on the job while cleaning up after this weekend's 10-inch torrential rainfall Monday. However, a swift water rescue he and co-worker Josh Patton made early Sunday morning was also in his thoughts.
It happened Sunday morning on Farm to Market Road 95, three miles south of Chireno at Lick Creek. A car got swept away with two people in it.
"I was the first rescue vehicle to pull up on the scene," Josh Patton, a Chireno volunteer firefighter, said. We could see in the swift moving water a guy bear hugging a tree at the base of the tree, water up to about his neckline."
Howard said the man was so distraught that they felt like they had to get him out of the water immediately.
"He was so distraught when we got to him," Howard said.
In total darkness, enduring fast moving water, Jimmy Pipes hung on a tree for over two hours. At sun-up someone driving by with his or her car window down heard his call for help.
"And he was already saying that he needed to let go," Patton said. "He was tired and had no energy left at all. He needed to let go."
A highly trained swift water rescue team from Nacogdoches was on its way, but the two volunteer firefighters with no such training made the decision to go in after jimmy Pipes. Howard said it would have been wise to wait, but they felt time was running out quickly.
"It would be a wise idea to wait for 'em, but at that point in time he was exhausted, and we were afraid that he was gonna go downriver," Howard said.
Patton said that sometimes, it just takes courage to do what needs to be done.
"It don't take training," Patton said. "Sometimes, it just takes more courage than what some people realize they got."
Howard said he and Patton secured Jimmy Pipes to a tree until they could get a life preserver on him.
Once on shore, Jimmy Pipes shared details of the frightening experience, knowing his daughter in law, Chanda Pipes, was nowhere in sight.
"He said he got her out of the car, and he remembers going through the pipe and coming up through the pipe," Howard said.
Chanda Pipes didn't survive. It's a regret both men will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. However, if Howard and Patton hadn't fought to save Jimmy Pipes' life, the Chireno-area flooding might have resulted in two drowning deaths.
"This is what we sign up to do, and the gratifying part is when you are able to save a life." Patton said. "In that particular case, I really feel like had we not been there, had we not shown up at that moment, we would have had two victims instead of one."
They don't want to be called heroes, but it's a recognition they earned for doing what had to be done.