A man and a woman say they spent hours clinging to trees above a flooded, roaring creek in Central Texas after their SUV was washed away, and were finally rescued early Thursday by helicopter.
Buda Fire Department Chief Clay Huckaby said people living along Little Bear Creek called 911 to report hearing people screaming.
Emergency personnel arrived around 4 a.m. Thursday, spotting the man and his girlfriend in separate trees about 150 yards apart, but could not reach the pair because of the high water. The woman lives about a quarter-mile from where the accident happened, officials said.
“The water was over the road by about 15 feet by the time we arrived at the scene,” Huckaby said. “There were about 10 feet above the water line hanging on the trees.”
Boats that normally would be available for swift-water rescues were being used elsewhere in flooded Hays County, an area where rainfall neared 14 inches Thursday.
Capt. Craig Odell, among the emergency responders at the scene, said rescuers yelled to the man and the woman to encourage them to “hang on.”
“We knew that they could hear us because they could respond, they could hear what we were saying,” Odell said. Rescuers were trying to “give them that piece of mind that someone was coming if we could just get to them.”
A rescuer in a harness was lowered from the helicopter, separately reached the man and the woman — whose names have not been released by authorities — and hoisted them to safety on the ground. The victims were treated for lacerations and hypothermia; the man broke his nose.
The couple estimated their ordeal lasted about four hours, Odell said.
The flooding also affected Buda firefighters.
“We were flooded out of our main station and had 2 feet of water in there as well,” Huckaby said, amid the cleanup.