Bobby Vincent of Mermentau Cove and Dale Lejeune of Eunice, employees of H. Brown Crane Company, were in a truck stuck in traffic in the southbound lane of I-49 approximately one mile south of Sunset Monday when they witnessed a scene that almost ended in tragedy.
Vincent said they saw a vehicle on the far service road, stuck in waist-high water. An 18-wheeler went by, creating a wave.
“The wave picked up the back end and turned it east, facing the canal,” Vincent said.
Then a trash truck went by, creating another wave that lifted the vehicle and dumped it into the canal.
“We thought he was going to get out,” Vincent said. Unbeknownst to him and Lejeune at the time, the driver was an elderly man who didn’t know how to swim.
Vincent said several other drivers witnessed the man’s plight, but no one moved to help.
Vincent, a former Jennings police officer and Esterwood volunteer firefighter, responded to the situation.
“I told my buddy, ‘We can’t let that man drown’,” Vincent recalled.
Vincent had some rope in the truck, and he and Lejeune ran across both lanes of the highway to help the man.
People were shouting for someone to call 911, but Vincent said, “He didn’t need a phone call, he needed a rope.”
Vincent threw the rope to the elderly man, and he and Lejeune were able to pull him out of the water and to safety.
“I just thank the Lord we were there,” Vincent said.
To top things off, Monday was also Vincent’s 53rd birthday.
“You could say it was a very exciting birthday,” he commented.
A customer of H. Brown was also stuck in traffic and managed to take photos of the rescue after recognizing the company name on the men’s uniforms, and sent the images to co-owner Maurice Brown.
“I really commend them and I think it’s awesome they decided to take the initiative and help this man,” Brown said of his employees.
Vincent said he’d like to meet the man he rescued, and talk to him about his experiences, but only caught his first name, Wilton. Vincent said he believes the man lives in Duson but hasn’t been able to track him.
“We’d sure like to meet him under better circumstances,” Vincent said.