BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Less than two days after floodwaters swept away a National Guardsman who was trying to rescue a woman, his body was recovered in Baltimore County.
Howard County police said 39-year-old Sgt. Eddie Hermond’s body was found by searchers in the Patapsco River just across the Baltimore County line.
A search for Hermond began Sunday after the veteran went missing during flash flooding in Ellicott City — a community that rebuilt after devastating damage less than two years ago during another massive flood.
WJZ spoke with Hermond’s aunt Nina Cooper who says they spent the day together on Saturday. She added that he was on the verge of retiring from the National Guard.
“We were glad that we got a chance to spend just a moment with him before all this tragedy took place,” she said.
Cooper said the loss is unbearable, but the support from the community hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“To see him and now he’s gone, it is a shock, it is a shock. But wow, the love and support from the community, it’s amazing,” she said.
Hermond, of Severn, was last seen Sunday around 5:20 p.m. trying to help rescue a woman and her cat behind La Palapa Grill & Cantina while churning, brown waters ripped through Ellicott City’s flood-prone downtown. He had been celebrating a friend’s birthday when the flood waters swept through the city.
“He, along with some other folks, went back to assist her and unfortunately during that effort they saw him go under and water and not surface,” Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner told reporters, adding that the others made it out of the area safely.
The mother of Kate Bowman, an Ellicott City store owner, told WJZ that Hermond will always be remembered as a hero in her family.
“I could barely see anything and I could barely hear anything” because the waters were so loud, the 41-year-old Bowman told our media partner The Baltimore Sun. “He stepped over the ledge to try to get to me, and he was washed away.”
Simon Cortes, who owns the restaurant, described Hermond as “a super nice guy,” who was frequently out in the community showing support when it worked to rebuild from the devastating flooding that ravaged the former mill town in July 2016.
“He was trying to save me,” Bowman said. “He’s a hero.”
Gov. Larry Hogan posted his condolences on social media:
We are deeply saddened to learn that the body of Maryland Army National Guard Sgt. Eddison Hermond has been found. There are no words to adequately describe our sense of loss. He was a man who dedicated his life in service to others, both in the Air Force and the Maryland National Guard, and again on Sunday night as he bravely risked his life to assist a fellow citizen during the flooding in Ellicott City. Our heartfelt prayers go out to Sergeant Hermond’s family and loved ones.
Hermond was serving in the National Guard. He previously served in the Air Force.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that the body of Maryland Army National Guard Sgt. Eddison Hermond has been found. There are no words to adequately describe our sense of loss,” from the Md. Army National Guard. “He was a man who dedicated his life in service to others, both in the Air Force and the Maryland National Guard, and again on Sunday night as he bravely risked his life to assist a fellow citizen during the flooding in Ellicott City. Our heartfelt prayers go out to Sgt Hermond’s family and loved ones.”
One of Hermond’s close friends said the veteran would often sport the Superman logo and was a big family man.
He is survived by his teenage son and mother.
All of them are grieving but grateful for some sense of closure, Cooper said.
“It would have been him first to spring into action. I mean, I could go on all day but he was just that guy that go-to guy,” she said.
Sunday’s dramatic flooding tore up streets and swept away dozens of parked cars in the city, which sits in a ravine on the west bank of the Patapsco River, about 13 miles west of Baltimore.
Ellicott City has been methodically rebuilding since the 2016 flooding damaged and destroyed businesses. Local officials recently said 96 percent of the businesses were back in operation and more than 20 new businesses had again opened in the Main Street area. Just two weeks ago, Hogan announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had awarded the state and county more than $1 million to pay for projects aimed at reducing the flood risk in areas around Main Street.
Some are already asking whether enough was done after the last flood to prevent a similar catastrophe. Hogan said temporary improvements were in place and more things were in the works to reduce the community’s vulnerabilities. But he said big changes take time, and no one expected such a huge flood so soon after 2016.