Robert Lee Hanson helped to save Mildred M. Thompson, Jamie L. Holeczy, and others from drowning, Wheeling, West Virginia, September 17, 2004. Thompson, 80, and her great-niece, Holeczy, 22, were in Thompson’s house, on the bank of Middle Wheeling Creek, after the creek flooded as the result of heavy rain from the remnants of a hurricane. Floodwater overtook the houses along that side of the street, trapping Thompson, Holeczy, and others, and it inundated the street, flowing swiftly there. Hanson, 42, railroad engineer, was visiting in the vicinity when he learned of the stranded residents. He responded to the scene and with another man started to wade across the street to Thompson’s house. They were swept downstream about 115 feet by the current, or to the point at which each stopped himself by grabbing a tree. Hanson and the other man resumed wading to Thompson’s house, where they forced open the front door. They picked Thompson up and, carrying her, waded through the neighboring properties along the street toward an office building, which, 300 feet away, was not significantly affected by flooding. En route, they set her down to allow Hanson to return to the house for Holeczy. The men then resumed their course through the floodwaters toward the office building with Thompson and Holeczy and once there forced entry for refuge. With other means of rescue not available for the remaining stranded residents, Hanson and the other man returned to the flooded houses, from which they helped two women to safety in the office building. After the other man made a third trip to the flooded houses, to aid a man stranded there, the victims were removed from the office building to safety by means of a military truck. Holeczy sustained a cut to her left foot, and Hanson suffered bruises to his legs. They recovered.
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