Joel Boyers of Nashville, Tennessee, has been a helicopter pilot for the past 16 years.
He co-owns HeliStar Aviation, a private helicopter charter service, and just helped his fiancee, Melody Among, earn her pilot’s license. The couple was heading home to celebrate when Joel’s phone rang.
The woman on the phone was a stranger to Joel. She lives in Pennsylvania, but her brother lives in nearby Waverly, Tennessee, and he had become trapped on a rooftop with his daughters. She was desperately calling charter companies hoping to get her loved ones airlifted out of the danger zone.
In just one day, Hurricane Ida dropped about 17 inches of rain down on the Nashville area. There was significant damage to western Nashville, and authorities were struggling to rescue people stranded by high winds, downed power lines, and raging floodwaters.
Joel knew it would be dangerous to take his aircraft out in such terrible weather, but he also knew he couldn’t ignore the woman’s plea for help.
“I thought, ‘How would I feel if I told her I’m not even going to try?'” he said. “She just so happened to call the right person, because I’m the only person crazy enough to even try to do that.”
Together, Joel and Melody set out on a single risky rescue mission, but along the way, they kept finding other people stranded by the floods. While a few people were out on boats and jet skis helping their neighbors to safety, there were no first responders on the scene yet. Joel knew he and Melody were the only hope for some of the strangers below.
“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.”
Flying in these conditions wasn’t easy. Joel had to navigate around power lines, hover over floodwaters, and land on uneven and sloped rooftops. Even though it was dangerous work, Joel said, “I don’t want to lie, it was almost a little fun for me.”
Waverly resident Jeani Rice-Cranford was watching Joel and Melody work from the safety of a nearby hilltop. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” she recalled. “Not in real life.”
She said a group of four people had been screaming for help for hours, but she couldn’t get to them. When she saw Joel flying down to rescue them, she watched with bated breath.
“There was a gust of wind, and the helicopter kind of shifted,” Jeani said. “We all just held our breath. We were just watching with our mouths open, hoping and praying that he would be able to get them.”
Fortunately, Joel was able to save all four people! When the authorities arrived, the pilot left the rescuing to the pros, but by then he’d already saved 17 lives!
Joel later heard from the woman who’d called him from Pennsylvania. He’s not sure if he was the one who rescued her brother and his family, but they did make it out safely.
FLOOD RESCUE: New video shows the moment flood victims found salvation in the form of a bright red helicopter flying in to save the day. Thank you to the Nashville pilot Joel Boyers! https://t.co/KtYOI7UEXu— FoxNashville (@FOXNashville) August 24, 2021
📸: Trenton Curtis News Media Broadcasting Publications pic.twitter.com/YWLpYkIiEZ
On a personal level, Joel said the experience came at the perfect time. “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 said.
Sometimes we are put in the right place at exactly the right time! Share this story to thank Joel and Melody for risking their lives to help others.
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