An alert driver on Monday is being credited with calling 911 to report a man in distress in the Trinity River near the US 90 bridge in Liberty. Liberty Fire Chief Brian Hurst, during the June 11 Liberty City Council meeting, said that an employee of Festus Plumbing made the call that ultimately saved the man’s life.
When the call came in, Hurst was at city hall, so he was the first to respond.
“Evidently, this gentleman [from Festus Plumbing] was driving on 90 and going toward Dayton. He saw this gentleman floating in the water, heading south. He didn’t think it looked quite right, so he turned in and actually drove underneath and got out to see the guy actually clinging to the pillar under the bridge until he couldn’t hold on any longer and washed down the river,” Hurst said.
Hurst looked toward the direction where the man was last seen and saw a black-haired person floating on the surface, obviously in distress.
Moments later, firefighters arrived with the department’s boat. Because the west side boat ramp is silted in from recent flooding, firefighters launched the boat behind Riverside Seafood. Hurst, standing on the west side of the river, hopped in the boat when firefighters came across to get him, and they began looking for the man.
They found him miraculously still floating in the river, though he was tiring. He was clinging to some grass along the bank on the east side of the Trinity River.
“He was so tired he couldn’t really hold onto the boat. We pulled him in and took him back to shore,” Hurst said.
The man, who was wearing only swimming shorts, told Hurst he was trying to swim across the river.
“We were amazed that we got there in time and he didn’t expire,” the chief said.
The unnamed man, who Hurst said is homeless, was unharmed.
Hurst said the near-drowning is a reminder of the dangers of the Trinity River, which many people do not seem to fully understand. Signs are posted warning of the dangers of swimming in the river, but they often go ignored.
One councilman told Hurst they should consider posting signs in Spanish as well as English in the future.
“They will be in Spanish, too. That’s one things we’ve talked about,” he said.