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Nellis and Creech airmen come to the rescue during flash flood

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(From left to right) Tech Sgt. Adam Dixon, Staff Sgt. James Maxwell and Airman 1st Class Christopher Fitzgerald, all members of the 820th RED HORSE, pose for a photo on Aug. 5 in front of the spot where the three airmen, assisted by three members of the 799th Air Base Squadron, saved an elderly couple who were trapped in their car during a flash flood Aug. 4 on U.S. Route 95 north of Las Vegas, Nev. (Air Force photo)

Nevada is often associated with its desert climate, but this summer, the state has seen quite a bit of high water.

Flash floods have impacted parts of the state, damaging homes and turning roads into current-heavy rivers.

And that’s what prompted Tech Sgt. Adam Dixon, Staff Sgt. James Maxwell and Airman 1st Class Christopher Fitzgerald, all members of the 820th RED HORSE, Nellis Air Force Base, to act on Aug. 4 when they saw an elderly couple trapped in the water.

The three airmen and three members of the 799th Air Base Squadron, Creech Air Force Base, helped rescue the couple trapped in their Toyota Prius after they had attempted to cross over a median to bypass the rising water, according to a news release.

“The water was flowing over the shoulder and cutting across the road, so people were backing up and crossing the median – which was actually lower than the interstate – so at that point we started seeing cars get stuck in the mud,” Dixon said in the news release. “Me and [Airmen 1st Class Joshua Parnell and Christopher Jones from the 799th ABS] first tried to push their car out of the mud, but it wasn’t budging. Within seconds the water went from being at boot level to waist level, so I knew we just needed to get them out of there at that point.”

As the current picked up, Maxwell ran over to Dixon to help keep the door open long enough for the couple to escape.

“It was pretty intense because we could see another car floating towards us and we didn’t want to get pinned by it, so I know we were both pushing as hard as we could on that door,” Maxwell said.

That’s where Fitzgerald came in: while the elderly gentleman was able to quickly exit, his wife needed assistance. Fitzgerald was able to get close enough to grab her and carry her to higher ground.

And the situation could have been catastrophic in no time, the airmen said.

“Right after the couple got out, the car floated down the median, and seconds after that we saw it upside down,” Dixon said.

One rescuer that had been assisting the three RED HORSE members was swept away by the current, but was quickly pulled out of the water by Jones, as Parnell and Staff Sgt. Tye Warner, also with the 799th ABS, repositioned cars on the highway so that they would not be caught and swept into the median.

“I’m just happy [the couple is] okay, and I’d think that even if we weren’t there, somebody else would have gotten them out of there,” Dixon said.

Related: Airmen to be honored for flash flood rescue

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