James F. Agnew, Sr., died attempting to save Henry J. Gerber from drowning, Berkeley, Missouri, April 2, 1964. At night during a rainstorm, Agnew, 19, aircraft utility man, Gerber, 17, schoolboy, the former’s younger brother, and another boy went to the aid of two people in an automobile stranded on the berm of a highway at the edge of a bank descending to a drainage ditch. As Agnew waded to the nearest side of the vehicle through floodwater which had backed up from a culvert and covered the highway with seven inches of water, Gerber and Agnew’s brother stepped off the edge of the highway at the culvert. Gerber, who could not swim, was submerged briefly in water four feet deep, called for help, and then was pulled under by the strong suction of an undercurrent created by water being drawn into the culvert. In illumination from the headlights of the automobile, Agnew ran to the abutment. He grasped the hand of his brother, who had kept from submerging by clutching the abutment above the culvert, and aided him onto the flooded highway. The brother pointed to where Gerber had gone under. Agnew, a good swimmer, immediately dived fully clothed into the water at the culvert. He did not return to the surface. Gerber had been drawn through the culvert under the highway and thence swept into a sewer four feet in diameter, where he was able to breathe in an air space at the top. He was carried about a mile through the sewer and into a creek, from which he climbed out. The body of Agnew was found 18 days later in the Mississippi River, to which he had been carried by way of the sewer, the creek, and the Missouri River.
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