Local News

Wilson Hero Saves Residents From Flash Flooding

Posted August 27, 2002

— A rescue worker in Wilson is being hailed as a hero for helping Spanish-speaking residents survive flash flooding.

Thirty-five people, including 12 children, were trapped in their Wilson neighborhood Monday after a flash flood. Robert Ortiz, a city employee who was on his way to work, instead found himself mounting a rescue mission to save them.

"I recruited a couple of them and said we've got to get the children and the women out of here now, so in a matter of 30 minutes, we were kind of carrying ourselves through the water, carrying children," he said.

Nobody in the neighborhood realized the danger because none of them speak English. By the time Ortiz arrived, the water was swift and families were in trouble including Karina Calzada and her son, Israel.

"I was very scared because the mobile home here was starting to move. It was standing like it was shifting and that really scared me," Karina said.

"All I could think of was, 'Don't let the children walk in the water.' It just broke my heart to see parents not knowing what to do," Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he is hoping the media will add Spanish information to emergency announcements.

"They need it in their own language because they could have been advised of this. Basically, that was my concern that they did not know, so it was a surprise," he said.

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