BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two people perished when flash flooding swept through historic Ellicott City on Saturday night, despite life-saving efforts by first responders.
Since then, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has praised their bravery and the heroism of Good Samaritans, who formed a human chain to rescue a woman as her vehicle was carried away by floodwaters.
In dramatic video uploaded to YouTube by user David Dempster, multiple people can be seen trudging through rushing water to reach a Volkswagen Beetle as it floats away. Video shows them putting their lives at risk, at times slipping and nearly falling, as they inch toward the vehicle, hoist the driver out and carry her to safety.
The driver, later identified as 29-year-old Jamie Knight, recalled the sense of terror she had as her vehicle drifted out of control down Main Street. “I was really afraid of getting washed down the street,” she said.
But that moment subsided as Jason Barnes led multiple people to lock wrists and venture out into the water to rescue Knight. Dempster, who caught the entire thing on video, later called Barnes a hero.
“He got swept away, he could have died,” said Dempster. “This guy is a hero.”
That sentiment was echoed by Kittleman, who mentioned the remarkable rescue during a Sunday news conference. The county executive lamented the losses of two lives in the flooding — Joseph Blevins, 38, of Windsor Mill, and Jessica Watsula, 35, of Lebanon Pennsylvania — but acknowledged the efforts undertaken by complete strangers to rescue Knight.
The act, Kittleman said, exemplified what Howard County residents are all about.
“I would just reiterate, the folks here in Howard County — the emergency personnel, the first responders — have been amazing,” Kittleman told reporters at a Sunday afternoon news conference. “But I will never forget seeing that video of the human chain saving that person out of that car.”
“I will never forget that,” he said, “because that tells me what people in Ellicott City are like, that tells me that that’s what people in Howard County are like, that tells me that this is not going to defeat us. We’re going to become a stronger, better community because that’s who we are.”
Neighbors were also floored by the video, which has since made national headlines.
“Well, I thought (Barnes) was going to be swept away,” Ellicott City resident Anny Steensen told WJZ’s Marcus Washington. “It’s amazing that they saved her and they saved him. It’s a very small community and we’re linked together — like they were.”
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW (WARNING — IT CONTAINS PROFANITY):