Helicopter pilot saves a dozen people trapped on roofs in Waverly floods
[Aug 30, 2021: Kaylin Jorge, Jackie DelPilar]
A Nashville helicopter pilot saved a dozen people trapped on roofs or at their homes during catastrophic flooding in Humphreys County over the weekend.
And it all started with one phone call from a woman who has calling random helicopter companies, desperate to find someone to save the lives of her brother and his children.
Joel Boyers, the owner of Helistar Aviation, answered the call for as devastating flooding took a 10-mile path of destruction in the county.
“Just as I popped over the hill I saw the whole town engulfed in water, there were two houses on fire, fire trucks everywhere,” Boyers said.
Video posted on YouTube and Facebook shows the moment flood victims found salvation in the form of a bright red helicopter flying in to save the day. The pilot behind that helicopter is Joel.
He says he got a call from a woman who was distraught and crying, saying her brother and his two daughters were trapped on their roof.
When he got to town, Boyers first zeroed in on two men sitting on a roof.
He navigated his chopper through power lines and debris, hovering close enough for them to step in.
He brought them to higher ground, then headed back for more.
“Most of them were visibly shaking, they had been up there for a long time, most of them were cold, some of them were in partial clothing because the flood pulled their clothes off so they’re sitting there freezing in the rain,” he said.
Joel ended up rescuing about 12 people on Saturday. Joel says most people he rescued were either trapped on their roofs or in their yards.
“It’s pretty devastating, especially because I couldn’t help a lot of people that I wanted to, it would’ve been way too dangerous,” he said.
Joel says responding to the disaster was a no-brainer.
“I knew I couldn’t say no without trying, I couldn’t have lived with myself, all I was thinking about was my daughter on a roof,” he said.
Historic rainfall led to at least 19 deaths that day and some people are still missing.
President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Humphreys County, opening up federal aid for victims.
Radar estimates 8-10” of rain fell in the Waverly area—give or take an inch—but just “upstream” along Trace Creek is McEwen.
This is where the bullseye of rain fell from this event. 17.02” is a new 24-hour rainfall record for the state of Tennessee.
In essence, Waverly was already dealing with its own flooding from the heavy rain, but the 17” in McEwen had nowhere else to go but downstream—right into Waverly.
According to TEMA, the flash flooding inundated more than 700 homes.
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