George Osterhues said if Tom Hall and his family hadn't come along when they did, he might have died.
Osterhues, 87, was continuing his trip from Ottawa, Canada to Florida when he took a detour off the interstate just before noon on Sunday and ended up on a country road that runs across a creek. When he got there, the creek had overrun its banks and covered the road. Osterhues found himself stuck in it.
“Some people were turning around and I was trying to do the same thing, but I was already a little too far,” he said.
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About the same time, Tom Hall was out scouting the roads to see if anyone might need help. He said the creek feeds into a small lake and often floods in heavy downpours.
He pulled up to the creek and could see there was trouble.
“We got to about right here, and we could see his car, which is all the way down there,” Hall told WSOC as he stood alongside the still-raging water. Using tree branches to steady himself, he took a chance and waded into the water to get closer to the car, praying it was empty – it wasn’t.
“I saw some movement, and then he raised his hand and waved at me, and that kind of broke my heart because I knew at that point we had to go back and get him,” Hall said. By the time he spotted him, Osterhues had been in the water for a couple of hours. Hall managed to get close enough to the car to tell Osterhues that he would be back then went to get his family, a life preserver and some cord -- anything he could use to get Osterhues out of the raging water.
He set out into the water one more time.
“The water was so strong he could hardly move, and I couldn't move either. I wasn't able to move,” Osterhues said.
“I went to the window, and the water was about up to here,” Hall said drawing a line across the middle of his chest with his hand. He was ready to pull Osterhues out of the window, but there was a problem.
He was clutching his small dog, Tila, and wasn’t about to let her go.
“George was very calm. I begged him to leave the dog, but he said, 'The dog is going with us,'” Osterhues said.
Against Hall’s better judgment, he started towing the two toward shore.
“I didn't want to leave the dog, so I took the dog too,” Osterhues said with a smile Monday as he cradled the dog in his arms.
It took almost an hour, but with the help of his son and wife, Hall managed to pull Osterhues to safety.
With no car and no one else nearby, the Halls invited Osterhues to stay with them Sunday night and were arranging for a hotel and rental car so he could keep on his way to Florida.
The floodwaters that rose so quickly had fallen back Monday, leaving a friendship that will last much longer.
“They already did too much for me. They have a big family to take care of and now me on top of that,” Osterhues said.