January 15, 2016
This article was originally published by ABC 33/40
A family swept away by floodwaters on Christmas Day got the chance to reunite with the Good Samaritan who helped them to safety. This month, they met at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Hall in Birmingham with smiles and hugs.
The last time Curtis Gray, who works at RWDSU/UFCW Mid-South Council, met the Miller family they were on Sweeney Hollow Road in Pinson, Alabama around 5:30pm in the pouring rain with rising flood waters December 25th. Gray was headed home and the Millers to a family gathering.
Rickey Miller had just gotten out of his vehicle to check and see if the road was passable when he yelled to his family to get out; the water was rising too fast. But it was too late and the vehicle was swept into the creek.”I was hysterical. I thought I had lost them,” explained Miller.
Curtis Gray had also stopped along the road a ways back. “Next thing I know, a car come floating down,” said Gray. He got out and first saw Miller’s daughter Faith. “She was screaming help me, help me!” Gray, who says he is not a swimmer, directed her back to the bank where the water was shallower and helped her out. Then Rickey Miller made it out of the creek and they saw his son Ryan surface.
“The car was nose down in ditch and he popped up. We told him to hang on and stay there.” Neighbors on the other side got a rope and helped him to safety. Gray said he had to convince Miller not to go back in the rushing flood waters. It was too dangerous. His wife Jamie was still missing at this point. “The little girl looked at me and said I’m not worried Dad. Mom’s going to be okay,” recalled Gray.
By this time, rescue crews were arriving. Grey walked about fifty feet looking around and heard her faint cries. He spotted Jamie Miller still in the frigid waters hanging onto a branch. They estimate the water was round eight feet deep. Gray alerted firefighters who were able to pull her out. She has a broken collarbone and plenty of bruises, but is otherwise okay.
After their harrowing night, the Millers spent their Christmas night in the emergency room. “We were alive, that was enough Christmas for us to be alive and together,” said Rickey Miller.
They drove from their home in Blount County to thank Gray personally for coming to their rescue giving him a card and gift card.
“I’m just happy God put me in that position to help them out,” said Gray. Both he and the Millers say they have a renewed respect now for those weather watches and warnings. They pledge to stay home when the weather is rough and take no chances. Gray said he’s seen video on the news before of cars and homes being swept away and never dreamed he would see such a thing first hand.