Man uses tractor to rescue more than 200 people from floodwaters

With his John Deer tractor, Willie Rios rescued at least 200 people in south Houston who were trapped in flood waters from Hurricane Harvey.

SOUTH HOUSTON - The City of South Houston spent Saturday collecting donations for residents impacted by last week's storms.

Harris County estimates about 75 percent of the town was damaged by high water. Just in the county alone, more than 20 people have died in floodwaters, but so many are alive today because of Willie Rios. 

"We don’t have a boat. We don’t have ATV’s. We have tractors here," said 37-year old Rios. "South Houston is 3.2 square miles." About 21,000 people live here.  "Oh! We know everybody here. We love everybody here. We’re all family."

A week ago, Rios and his family were watching a boxing match and just as Floyd Mayweather was down in the forth round, "and I told my wife, 'Man, he ain’t going to win,'" then Mayweather swung a sucker punch.

"And my wife told me, 'Look outside the door. I think we’ve got trouble.' I went outside and I’ve seen water where I’ve never seen it before. This ain’t normal. A lot of the police cars couldn’t go out because we had two feet of water."

But his John Deere tractor, with four-foot tall tires, could move through rising water. 

"We started out rescuing maybe four at a time, but after that, the calls were coming in and coming in to our cellphones. 'You know, I’ve got three babies in the house. The water’s coming in. All of our cars have took in water. We’re by the bayou. You need to come save us.' Not can you come, you need to come."

Rios ended up rescuing more than 200 people from their flooded homes.

His tractor transported them to a community shelter where they were fed and checked out for medical concerns.

"Ah! The tractor. It saved a lot of my citizen’s lives and I’m forever grateful for that." said Rios.

Rios, who happens to be a city council member, is now working to create a volunteer high-water rescue group in the City of South Houston. 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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