A trip home in a torrential rainstorm turned deadly when an elderly couple became trapped in their pickup during recent flash flooding in the Hazeldell Community near Dublin.
Eighty-year-old Margaret Nelson lost her life when she and her husband, J.D., 82, were trying to get home when the couple tried to cross a bridge on County Road 370, off of 1702.
According to Comanche County Sheriff’s Deputy Tammy Shelton, who was first on the scene along with the Gustine Fire Unit, dispatch received a call about 6 p.m. on May 2 alerting authorities that an elderly couple was trapped in their vehicle.
When Shelton arrived at the scene, he said only about a foot of the top of the cab of the pickup could be seen. The Gustine Fire Unit reported that the vehicle was being swept away into Mackey Branch, which feeds into the Leon River.
Shelton said he pulled off his gun belt, vest and glasses, then rolled the hose off the fire truck before going in. Entering the water with Shelton were volunteers, Andy Hesbrook, Jr. and Shaun Baker.
“I’m 6-1 and probably weigh 270 pounds,” Shelton said. “It was difficult to stand. It was like getting blindsided by someone tackling you in football.”
Shelton said Mr. Nelson was outside of the vehicle, but Mrs. Nelson could not be spotted - and the water was too swift for a second rescue attempt.
“It was very emotional because I could not get to her,” Shelton said. “It was upsetting to me because I could not get to the female.”
Mr. Nelson was rescued and transported by a bulldozer to a nearby waiting ambulance, along with Shelton. At Comanche County Medical Center, Shelton was treated for hypothermia and released. Mr. Nelson was admitted but is now at home.
“We were headed home (when the accident occurred),” Mr. Nelson said. “I had been down that road many times before but it never had the current like that.”
Deputies and firemen continued to search for Mrs. Nelson. Helicopters were called but unable to fly because of the bad weather.
Shelton said the Hamilton swift water rescue team along with DeLeon Fire Units equipped with swift water gear arrived on the scene to search for Mrs. Nelson.
At approximately 8 p.m., her body was located about 75 feet from the vehicle. “The flash flood overwhelmed them suddenly,” Shelton said. “They were just trying to get home.”
Shelton is warning drivers to be cautious when traveling in extreme weather.
“Do not drive into water crossing a roadway. Swift running water is very powerful. Death or serious injury can result from it,” Shelton said. “We have a job to do but it can result in serious injuries for the rescuers, also.”
ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124,ext.238