Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Flood rescue

A tale of heroism - and faith

        School starts later this month for Brandon Berman. But he already knows the topic of his “What I did on my summer vacation” report.

        The fifth-grader plans to write about the night he and his dad, Matthew Berman, floated in their car down a Warren County road. Almost swept away by a flash flood, they were saved by another father-and-son team.

        The lessons in his story are many. Stay calm. Be brave. Work together. Above all, have faith.

        Brandon's rescuers, the Rev. Doug Mitchell and his 20-year-old son, Devin, added this lesson: Be humble.

        Their heroism was recognized Tuesday night by Deerfield Township trustees. The Mitchells appreciate the trustees' efforts.

        “But what we did was no big deal,” Devin told me.

        “It had to be done,” added his father.

        “Anyone would have done the same thing.”

        I'm not so sure. People may want to help. But they may lack the presence of mind. You be the judge.        

Close call

        On the night of July 17, Brandon and Matthew left Riverbend for their Maineville home. They drove into a torrential downpour.

        Matthew, an information technology manager at Procter & Gamble, eased their white 1993 Civic along the interstate.

        Exiting the highway, he got on winding Irwin Simpson Road. Home was five minutes away.

        Matthew drove through standing water along the road. Lightning flashed. In the distance he saw a patch of pavement. In between, more standing water. Almost home, he thought, as he gave the car some gas.

        Brandon's feet immediately felt cold. Water was pouring into the car.

        A nearby creek had turned into a raging river. The car started to float.

        The flash flood's current sent the Civic sideways down the road. Clunk! Something snagged the car.        

"Black hole of death'

        Matthew and Brandon were stuck on a guardrail. Through the pouring rain, they saw the water rising. Lowering the windows, they climbed out and huddled together on the car's roof.

        The Civic faced a dark, tree-lined culvert rapidly filling with roaring water. Matthew knew they could not leave the car. “We would have been swept away into that black hole of death.”

        They cried for help. A porch light came on. They heard voices.

        The Rev. Mitchell, Christ Hospital's director of pastoral services, and Devin, a third-year student at Jerusalem's Israel College of the Bible, arrived.

        They live in Landen, just around the corner from where the Bermans clung to the roof of their car.

        The Mitchells wore fishing waders. Devin tied one end of a nylon rope around his waist and the other around his dad's. He wrapped his legs around a red fireplug.

        “Devin has great leg strength from being a soccer goalie,” said Rev. Mitchell. “I knew he was going to be my anchor.”

        The Mitchells prayed for help from another anchor.

        “We asked God to keep us safe and help those people,” Devin said. “We're men of few words.”

        And mighty deeds.

        Rev. Mitchell waded into the chest-deep water. One by one, he brought Brandon and his dad to safety.

        Mission accomplished. Prayer answered.

        They say anyone would do this.

        You just have to have faith.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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