John H. Clendening III helped attempt to save Thomas L. Stewart from drowning, Cookeville, Tennessee, January 23, 2002. Stewart, 20, was one of a three-man public-works crew dispatched to a residential neighborhood to attend to flash flooding after a period of heavy rain. Wearing chest-high waders, he was swept feet first into one of two adjacent 36-inch pipes that took the rushing floodwater beneath a road surface. Able to cling to the edge of the pipe but nearly submerged, he called for help. His two coworkers responded immediately, one of them, Clendening, 22, entering the flooded area to grasp and secure him. The other coworker called for help and obtained a length of chain that they tied to Stewart in an attempt to extract him from the pipe. Other public works employees responded, and two passersby stopped to assist, one of whom entered the flooded area but was almost immediately swept through the adjacent pipe. The level of the water rose, submerging Stewart, yet Clendening maintained his grasp of him. Arriving rescue personnel secured Clendening and, after extended effort, removed him from the flooded area. He was taken to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia and bruising, then he required additional medical treatment for related effects. Stewart’s body, as well as that of the passerby, were recovered hours later. They had drowned.
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