Joel Boyers prayed to God recently for a sign of what he should be doing with his life. And then the phone rang. Boyer, a Tennessee-based helicopter pilot, was flying home last week when a woman called saying flooding in Waverly, Tenn., had trapped her brother and nieces on their roof. She begged for his help.
“I thought, ‘How would I feel if I told her I’m not even going to try?’” the co-owner of Helistar Aviation told the Associated Press. “She just so happened to call the right person, because I’m the only person crazy enough to even try to do that.”
Boyer, along with his fiancé, flew over the area and spotted several people stranded on their roofs with no help in sight. So, he got to work despite the obvious risks to himself.
“As soon as I popped over the ridge, it was nothing but tan raging water below me,” he said. “There were two houses that were on fire, there were cars in trees. There was tons of debris. Any way debris could get caught, it was. I knew no one was going to be able to swim in that.”
Boyer had to maneuver between a web of powerlines that crisscrossed beneath his helicopter to reach the stranded. But he did it time and again, making several trips to pluck people off of their roofs and lift them to safety.
Jeani Rice-Cranford captured video of one of the dramatic rescues atop a farm supply store. The roof of the store wasn’t wide enough for Boyer to land on. So, instead, the helicopter pilot dropped a single skid on the edge of the roof so people could climb in. He had to make several trips to clear the roof.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Rice-Cranford told the AP. “Not in real life.”
Helicopter Pilot Prayed for Meaning in Life
Joel Boyer said he had felt stranded himself recently. And he turned to his faith for answers.
“I literally prayed just days before this that God would give me some meaning in my life, and then I end up getting this call,” he told the AP.
He’s been flying for 16 years and has gone to disaster zones before. Though, there had always been law enforcement or rescue workers already in the area. This time, however, there was no one. His fiancé helped him spot potential hazards as flew headlong into the disaster.
“Her and I will be bonded to those people for life,” he said.
However, his daring-do may draw some criticism or sanctions from the Federal Aviation Authority. He said FAA officials have already reached out to him.
Boyer told Fox 17 that he believes he saved 17 people on Saturday.
Unfortunately, not everyone could be saved. At least 20 people died in the flooding, and water destroyed more than 270 homes and 160 took major damage, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency.
However, in the aftermath, people have stepped up to help. An anonymous donor walked into several Humphrey Country funeral homes and paid for the funerals of all those who died in the floods, The Tennessean reported.
People have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the victims along with clothing and food.