Columbia, SC (WLTX) Tuesday, October 4, 2016 is the first anniversary of the October Flood. It's a date few will forget, especially those who were trapped when flood waters suddenly swept their cars away on Columbia's Decker Boulevard. The Columbia Fire Department had to come up with a plan to save them and it all played out on Live TV.
First responders with Columbia Fire Department had trained for scenarios like what they encountered around the city, but they had never actually seen anything like what the October flood brought. Senior firefighter, Layne Dowey, says, "We have swift water training, I'm swift water certified, but nothing can prepare you for something like that. Among others, he helped rescue a woman who was nine months pregnant on Trenholm Road. He says they called for boats, but they were all busy on other calls. Dowey says, "So we improvised and just used equipment we had on a truck and we had from other home owners and made safety lines for ourselves. And proceeded to pull the lady out of her bedroom window."
First responders were spread all over the city helping whoever they could. Captain Jacob Eller was in a crew with a boat assigned to the northeast. He says, "It really was call, after call, after call."
Some of those calls were multiple people, stuck when flood waters swept cars away on Decker Boulevard. The Midlands watched on live TV while firefighters worked to rescue more than five people.
Captain Eller describes what happened saying, "That call on Decker was too dangerous for the boats. That was a scenario where we had to regroup and work on that plan A, plan B, and Plan C. We're gonna try this first, and if that doesnt work, we're gonna work on this and this. And I think in that situation we even had a couple different things going on because there were several different people that needed rescuing. So there might have been one scenario going on with a person that was a couple yards behind the trees, trapped. And then you had this other person stuck on top of their vehicle on top of the road way."
Though the water is long gone on Decker Boulevard and first responders have rolled on to numerous other calls in the last year, they remember some amazing rescues and try not to second guess. Eller says, "You look back at it, or you talk to people and you are like, 'Ah man, yeah what if I had tried that.' But the reality of the situation is, everyone just did the best they could with what they had."
Most first responders worked more than 48 hours straight with little to no rest, rescueing hundreds of people.
Sadly, there were nine flood related fatalities in Richland County and a total of 19 statewide.