How a Drone and Social Media Aided in One Man's Rescue From NC Flooding

A man flying a drone helped alert emergency services of a man still trapped.

ByABC News
October 11, 2016, 2:28 PM

— -- A drone and social media played a role in one North Carolina man's rescue from his flooded home during Hurricane Matthew.

Craig Williams of Austin, Texas, told ABC News today that his brother, Chris Williams, had stayed in his home in Cumberland County, North Carolina, as the storm approached over the weekend.

Craig Williams said that his brother "was in the Navy for over 8 years," and normally when he hears news of hurricanes, "he typically doesn't blink. So, he wasn't really taking these warnings seriously."

Craig Williams said that his brother's power went out while most of the serious evacuation orders for his area started coming in, "so he had no idea what was going on. He wasn't getting any information. He saw the water go up in his yard, and he just thought 'no big deal.'"

Late Saturday night, however, the floodwaters inundated Chris Williams' home, with enough force to break down the front door.

According to Craig Williams, his brother refused to leave the house without his dog, Lana, who did not know how to swim. As Chris Williams began desperately calling for help, he found that 911 and emergency services in the area were down and would not answer his phone calls.

That was when Chris Williams went to the top room in his house reached out to his brother on Facebook, asking him if he could help.

"I tried to track down every emergency services in North Carolina and I found a bunch of numbers and I called them all, and they were all either busy or their phone services were down," Craig Williams said. "That is what surprised me most, was that the 911 systems were down."

PHOTO: A man flying a drone in Cumberland County, North Carolina helped rescue a Chris Williams from his home after Hurricane Matthew.
A man flying a drone in Cumberland County, North Carolina helped rescue a Chris Williams from his home after Hurricane Matthew.

Craig Williams said he then turned to Twitter to try and find some local news and reports of when the water would subside, and he found a picture of a neighborhood completely deluged with floodwater.

"I saw this incredibly devastated neighborhood, where you couldn’t see anything, just the rooftops," Craig Williams said. "Then I sent it to him as a joke and was like, 'Well, at least it's not as bad as this.' And he said, 'That's my house.'"

Craig Williams said at first he thought his brother was joking, but soon he saw other pictures and was able to recognize his neighborhood, so he immediately tweeted at the man who posted the pictures, Quavas Hart.

Hart responded instantly on Twitter said that he was in the area, a few streets over, flying his drone, and told Craig Williams that he thought everybody in that neighborhood had been evacuated already. Hart was eventually able to flag down a Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue crew nearby and tell them that there was a man and his dog still in one of the houses.

Chris Williams and his dog were eventually pulled into a FEMA boat and taken to safety. His brother Chris said he is still amazed at how they were able to coordinate this rescue. "Keep in mind, all this happened when all the phone lines are down and there is no power," he said.

Meanwhile, Hart filmed the entire rescue from the sky with his drone.

Craig Williams said that through this whole ordeal, his brother has learned to heed evacuation warnings more seriously. He added that he is extremely grateful to Hart for his quick response on Twitter and for jumping into action. "I’ve already told him that as soon as I can, I am going to take him and my brother out to eat and we are going to have a couple of beers over this," Chris Williams said.

"You see a lot of negative things and you hear a lot of awful stuff, but the reality is there are a lot of good people in this world and if you just ask, they will do the right thing," Chris Williams said. "This is one of those moments when humanity came together."

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