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Hardee's cook Timothy Price and his coworkers helped pull passengers from a flooded car.
DANIEL LIN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Timothy Price, shift manager Dominique Bell, and Sarah Johns, employees of the Hardee's on Hershberger Road in Roanoke, helped rescue three people from a car that had become stuck in floodwaters behind their store during the heavy rains on Wednesday.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
At the Hardee’s restaurant on Hershberger Road, business was slow on Wednesday afternoon.
Heavy rains and flooding kept most customers away, and traffic was backed up as people tried to avoid driving in the high waters. About 3:30 p.m. part of nearby Ferncliff Avenue was flooded and impassable to motorists.
Hardee’s customers and employees were safe and dry inside , but then a woman came running up in panic. She told employees that people were stuck in a car on Hobock Drive, which runs behind the restaurant.
Hardee’s cook Timothy Price was working in the back and came to the front just to see what the commotion was about. He went outside to see what had happened.
A white Chevrolet Monte Carlo was already partially submerged , the murky brown water already at the car windows. Several people stood around and watched. Witnesses said some people were even taking pictures. Most people were too scared to go near the water that hovered about 5 feet deep in some spots .
But not Price.
The 22-year-old father said he thought he saw a child in the passenger seat of the car, and without thinking twice, he was gone.
“I just took off,” said Price. “I threw everything out of my pockets and took off.”
As the road dipped, Price went from walking in 3 feet of water to fighting water that almost reached his neck. But he half-swam, half-waded until he got to the car.
A young woman — witnesses guessed she was in her early 20s — was crying and in a panic in the driver’s seat. A man in his late teens or early 20s was in the back seat. An elderly woman was in the passenger seat and was so small that Price and others mistook her for a child.
Nearly a foot of water was already in the car, but they were able to get the windows down.
Price reached into the car’s passenger seat and told the elderly woman to put her head down before he put his arms underneath her and carried her out the window, holding her over his shoulder.
“It was an adrenaline rush,” said Price. “I was just trying to help her. I was just trying to get her out.”
When he turned around, he saw his shift manager, Dominique Bell, 23, headed toward the car as well as fellow employee Sarah Johns, 27.
Bell was at first worried about his employees.
“I was the manager on duty, so I was kind of iffy about the whole thing, but I wanted to help,” Bell said. So , without even removing his shoes, he plunged into the water.
The woman clung to Price as he carried her away from the car . By the time he brought her to a dry area, Bell and Johns had helped pull the other two passengers out of the car and through the water.
“We saw him take off, and then we followed pursuit, basically, to see if we could help,” Johns said.
Johns said she tried to calm the driver, whom she said was hysterical.
By this point people were cheering the Hardee’s workers on. After everyone was safe, the three of them helped to push the car out of the water.
Unfortunately the car stalled and had to be towed . However, the driver and passengers came inside the restaurant and thanked the employees that came to their aid.
“The guy, he shook my hand and told me thank you,” said Price. No one took the names of the people in the car.
Because they were cold and soaking wet, Price, Bell and Johns took a break to change, but all of them finished their shifts . They had another watery problem to tackle
Water had seeped into the restaurant, covering the floor. About 4:30 p.m., Hardee’s had to close for two hours as the staff cleaned up.
Hardee’s district manager Gene Regan checked on the restaurant after hearing about the flooding. Employees told him about the rescue and he was overwhelmed with pride.
“The obvious thing is we always want to take care of our customers,” said Regan. “To me, I think it’s a tremendous blessing to have them working for us, because what they did was way beyond taking care of our customers.”
Regan was so proud that he emailed his boss, who emailed the corporate office, Boddie-Noell Enterprises. Rick Roun tree, a spokesman for Boddie-Noell Enterprises, said the rescue story is making its rounds in the company, including to the CEO.
In an email Roun tree said he wouldn’t be “surprised if some other kind of recognition or acknowledgement of their actions is taken by the company.”
However, the employees involved, all from Roanoke, don’t think what they did was a big deal.
When Bell walked in to work Saturday, someone shouted, “ Hey, hero!” at him, which he just shrugged off. Price said he believes in karma and he was taught to lend a helping hand growing up. He said now that he’s a father, there’s an instinct that made him dive into the water to help.
Johns said they would do it again without question.
“I would want somebody to come help me if I was in trouble,” she said.
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