School Bus Driver and Student Rescued from Rising Water
Cheryl Richardson of Lexington was on her normal bus route for LISD and had picked up one of her charges by 6: 45 last Wednesday morning. Her route had her on FM 112, near the Lee/ Milam County line. The rain had been coming done for a while, but Cheryl said she could clearly see the yellow and white lines that mark the roadways. She said there was water on the road, but it wasn’t deep.
“I got to where I always turn around, and the rain started coming down in sheets. Just then, my bus died and the water started rising real quick. It got up to the bottom step of my bus and I could feel the back of the bus shift. I called James [Marburger, who is in charge of LISD transportation] and he, in turn, called the Fire Department,” Cheryl said.
About ten minutes later, Cheryl saw Allen Retzlaff, with the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department, wading toward her bus. She was so shaken, that when he arrived, she asked him to see if he could get the bus started and drive it out.
“I broke every protocol known to our Fire Department,” Allen said. “You’re not supposed to go into rising water. But what was I going to do? Leave her and the child there?”
Cheryl said Allen got behind the wheel and started the bus, and began backing it up slowly.
“I knew that I probably could have gotten the bus out quicker by driving forward, but I had already walked up from the back side of the bus. I knew what was there. I didn’t know what was in front of the bus,” said Allen.
He was able to back the bus out to CR 455, and, with the help of his youngest son, Anthony, and Chris Billings, all volunteers with LVFD, returned the bus, along with Cheryl and the student, to LISD. Cheryl, who has been driving for LISD for more than 10 years, finished her bus route, managing to pick up the kids who live in Lexington, and getting everybody to school by 9 a.m.
In the meantime, Allen received word that another rescue was needed, which happened within a ½ mile of where he had rescued Cheryl. He sent out Anthony and Chris, along with Danny Voiles, an EMT who is a volunteer with Lexington EMS and Tanglewood Volunteer Fire Department, and who works with B&M Ambulance in Giddings.
A lady had called 911 requesting assistance after water started rising around her home. Apparently, she had recently had back surgery and needed help to get out of her home. Danny and the other two volunteers waded out to her manufactured home, which was 125 to 150 yards off FM 112. When they arrived, the water was up to their knees. A couple of minutes later, the water was already up to their waist and rising fast.
Danny said, “We used all safety precautions we could employ at the time. Chris supported the lady from the back, helping to keep her upright by holding her under her arms. I had her right side and in front, trying to guide her. Anthony was on her left, trying to break the current. We all had life jackets on. We worked as one solid unit and had Linda Patschke (Lexington EMS) along with other firefighters on the road helping to guide and encourage us. It was terribly frightening. We saw the water lift an old pickup near us and move it about 200 yards. Before we reached the road, the water was up to our ribcages.”
Danny continued, “Everybody that was there that day deserves an ‘Attaboy’. We couldn’t have done it without the guys on shore, encouraging us to keep going. It was an extreme display of teamwork that brought about the good ending.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s to all the emergency personnel and volunteers in our community: Attaboy and thank you so much!