Saving drowning women is all in a day’s work for a couple of Missouri boy scouts who had already collected their swimming and lifesaving merit badges.
The county recreation center swimming pool where one gets such badges presents very different conditions to those created when a June storm dumped six inches of rain over Columbia in Missouri with little warning—causing floodwaters from creeks to burst their banks, causing overflow zones to turn into ponds.
When 15-year-old Dominic Viet and 16-year-old Joseph Diener passed a basketball court that had turned essentially into a water polo area, they heard the frantic shouting of a young woman desperately trying to keep her head above water under the force of a current.
The boys had seen the girl swimming with a friend there before, but it was now obvious she was drowning.
“The first thing that came into my mind was to get into the water,” Dominic told CNN. “We didn’t have time to think, her head was barely above the water and we could see her sinking more down every second. We didn’t think about the risks, we had to get her out.”
Heroes will do as heroes do, and hoisting her up onto their shoulders, Dom and Joseph got her ashore, where emergency services arriving at someone else’s call performed first aid and rushed her to the hospital.
Floodwaters are no conditions to be swimming in. There can be sewage runoff, loose chemicals, downed power lines charging the current with electricity, or physical debris such as manhole covers that have been lifted out of their sockets by the force of the water.
Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Jenkins described the boys’ act as heroic and brave, as did Dominic’s mom, who had been calling her son for some time before and was growing nervous.
She sent her husband, Dom’s father, to check on his position, but when he arrived he saw ambulances and firetrucks from the call that was meant to rescue the young woman.
“I thought of the worst, he’s on a bike and people weren’t paying attention and my fear was he was going to pull up and see our son on the ground,” said Mrs. Viet. “But then he saw them on their bikes heading back to their friend’s house, and I got a text from Dominic saying ‘Coming home soon, just saved a woman’s life Mom.’”
Oh Mom… how about you have a little faith?
The fire department will honor the two boys with a “Citizen Life Safety Award” next week.