The Drone Rescue Starts at about 3:20 in the video.
A drone and social media played a role in one North Carolina man’s rescue from his flooded home during Hurricane Matthew.
Craig Williams of Austin, Texas, told ABC News today that his brother, Chris Williams, had stayed in his home in Cumberland County, North Carolina, as the storm approached over the weekend.
Craig Williams said that his brother “was in the Navy for over 8 years,” and normally when he hears news of hurricanes, “he typically doesn’t blink. So, he wasn’t really taking these warnings seriously.”
Craig Williams said that his brother’s power went out while most of the serious evacuation orders for his area started coming in, “so he had no idea what was going on. He wasn’t getting any information. He saw the water go up in his yard, and he just thought ‘no big deal.'”
Late Saturday night, however, the floodwaters inundated Chris Williams’ home, with enough force to break down the front door.
According to Craig Williams, his brother refused to leave the house without his dog, Lana, who did not know how to swim. As Chris Williams began desperately calling for help, he found that 911 and emergency services in the area were down and would not answer his phone calls.
That was when Chris Williams went to the top room in his house reached out to his brother on Facebook, asking him if he could help.
“I tried to track down every emergency services in North Carolina and I found a bunch of numbers and I called them all, and they were all either busy or their phone services were down,” Craig Williams said. “That is what surprised me most, was that the 911 systems were down.”
As it turned out, Navy veteran Chris Williams and his elderly dog Lana were trapped in the house with one blue shutter to the right of the picture.
Williams thought he was out of the hurricane’s path when his power went out a day and a half before, according to his twin brother, Craig Williams, who lives in Texas. “During that day and a half,” Craig told The Two-Way, “the hurricane shifted paths and was coming directly towards him.”
Chris went to sleep on Saturday night — and woke up to a bang. The surging water had broken through his back door, sending furniture crashing around the house. He grabbed Lana and raced to the highest point in the house, a small room where he had some food stored. “He spent the next 14 hours sitting there,” Craig said.
During this time, both Craig and Chris tried to contact local emergency services to reach rescue crews — to no avail. Chris’ phone line was down but the brothers were able to stay in touch over Facebook Messenger. When Craig finally got in contact with rescuers on Sunday, they eventually told him they weren’t able to get to his brother’s area.
Then Craig spotted Quavas’ dramatic cul-de-sac picture on Twitter, and wrote a joking note to Chris: “Hey, at least you’re not this guy.”
It only took a few seconds for Chris to respond: “Hey, that’s my house.”
Craig immediately reached out to Quavas with this plea: “Any chance you can boat him out of there? He’s trapped upstairs.”
Craig Williams said he then turned to Twitter to try and find some local news and reports of when the water would subside, and he found a picture of a neighborhood completely deluged with floodwater.
“I saw this incredibly devastated neighborhood, where you couldn’t see anything, just the rooftops,” Craig Williams said. “Then I sent it to him as a joke and was like, ‘Well, at least it’s not as bad as this.’ And he said, ‘That’s my house.'”
Craig Williams said at first he thought his brother was joking, but soon he saw other pictures and was able to recognize his neighborhood, so he immediately tweeted at the man who posted the pictures, Quavas Hart.
Hart responded instantly on Twitter said that he was in the area, a few streets over, flying his drone, and told Craig Williams that he thought everybody in that neighborhood had been evacuated already. Hart was eventually able to flag down a Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue crew nearby and tell them that there was a man and his dog still in one of the houses.
Chris Williams and his dog were eventually pulled into a FEMA boat and taken to safety. His brother Chris said he is still amazed at how they were able to coordinate this rescue. “Keep in mind, all this happened when all the phone lines are down and there is no power,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hart filmed the entire rescue from the sky with his drone.