FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas -- Even when it’s not peak commute time, the intersection of the Grand Parkway and U.S. 90 outside Sugar Land roars with traffic. That’s normal. However, the night of Sunday, Aug. 27 was anything but, remembers Deputy Constable Mat Hernandez.
After spending the entire day on an airboat pulling people out of flooding homes, he says he decided to stop by the intersection, an underpass that typically fills with water during a big storm. When he got to the scene, Hernandez says he spotted a black car submerged in the water.
“My first thing was to get out of my car, get down there,” he says, explaining why he waded into the water with all of his gear on. “I see a hand come out and a guy says, ‘Help me.’ The water’s up to about waist deep. The guy’s frantic, saying, ‘Help me, help me.’ I say, ‘Sir, I’m going to get you out.’”
While Hernandez started working his way toward the car, Lt. Ruben Valencia pulled up. Like Hernandez, he’d been working on the airboats, but wanted to check on his deputy.
“I could see his car with the emergency lights on. It was pouring down still,” Valencia recalls. “I looked inside the car and couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see anyone in there.”
Looking around in the dark, Valencia finally spotted Hernandez.
“I see him grabbing people like a human chain and he’s leading the pack,” Valencia described. “The water’s going over his back. He’s pulling them. There’s about four people.”
One of those four almost didn’t make it. Hernandez says he told them to hold hands so he could pull them through the current, but an older woman let go.
“She got swept away. I had to run behind her and grab her. I picked her up and said, ‘Let’s go.’ I carried her all the way up to my Tahoe,” Hernandez says.
In the end, all four and Hernandez made it to higher ground safely.
“There’s a lot of honor in that because we do things without even thinking twice, without even thinking about our own lives, our own safety,” says Valencia, which is why he nominated Hernandez to be honored by the Sugar Land Rotary.
“I assure you if Lt. Valencia hadn’t witnessed Deputy Hernandez’ efforts and actions, we probably would not have been informed because he’s a very humble man, a humble deputy,” says Constable Trever Nehls.
Back at the intersection where the rescue went down, the water has receded, but the memory of this deputy’s heroic actions won’t soon fade.