LaFollette Utilities’ Dayne Deavours has slogged through his share of flash floods during this summer’s stretch of nonstop rains that have gutted a church, toppled trees and left many in his community homeless.
It’s likely, though, that one particular deluge in the eastern Tennessee municipal utility service area will stick in Deavours’ mind for some time. Last month, after storms dumped more than 7 inches of rain in Campbell County, the third-year apprentice lineman saved two young men from drowning.
Deavours was in his truck, running a line down a country road to repair a storm-related outage on June 7. “From every which direction,” debris and tree limbs were floating in the road, even a piece of sheet metal. “I was wondering whether I should drive through or turn around, and then I turned to look at my right and saw a ditch that had turned into a raging river” after a creek had spilled over its banks.
That’s when Deavours saw one of the men standing on the top of his car, trapped in floodwaters. “He was as white as a ghost when he flagged me down. If I hadn’t stopped to look, I wouldn’t have seen him. I didn’t even see his vehicle,” because the water was so deep.
With little time to think, Deavours tied his handline to the front of the truck and tossed the rope to the man, dragging him to safety. At that point, the rescued driver told Deavours and a bystander who had stopped to help that his friend had been swept downstream.
Deavours and the bystander were able to find the second man, a few hundred yards away, up in a tree.
The two men, while shaken up, escaped injury and were helped by onlookers. Afterward, Deavours returned to helping restore some 6,000 outages that day.
Later, one of the young men’s grandfathers called General Manager Kenny Baird “to offer his gratitude for Dayne’s quick thinking. When I found out that Dayne was the person who rescued them, I certainly wasn’t surprised. We are fortunate to have him on our staff. I’m proud of Dayne and all of our staff for the great work they do each and every day.”
A lot could have gone wrong, said Deavours. “Looking back, they could’ve been swept away or could have even possibly become trapped underneath the swift current.” But thanks to Deavours’ skills and quick thinking during this “horrible June that’s been traumatic for a lot of people,” two local men are alive today.
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.