The first time Cristina Couch saw Carthage Firefighters Mat Fasano and John Browder on April 29, she and her husband were huddled with their two young children on the roof of their mobile home which was surrounded by flood waters and wedged against a tree and utility pole.

Editor's Note: Last week The Carthage Press featured an article on Stephen and Althea Wood and Nick and Kandy Couch and their escape from flood waters that invaded their homes on April 29. This story features more of that family and their escape from those same flood waters.

The first time Cristina Couch saw Carthage Firefighters Mat Fasano and John Browder on April 29, she and her husband were huddled with their two young children on the roof of their mobile home which was surrounded by flood waters and wedged against a tree and utility pole.
A week later, Couch and her two children, Nova, 5, and Gage, 18 months, met Fasano and Browder again, this time at the Carthage Fire Station to thank them for saving their lives.
“I wanted to meet the firefighters who saved us, even though I was embarrassed about being so hysterical,” Cristina Couch said on Saturday, May 6. “I wanted to thank them for saving my children and my husband and I. I'm glad we get to live another day.”
Fasano and Browder and Eli Maples were three of a crew of Carthage Firefighters who were called to Hyacinth Road south of Old Route 66 west of Brooklyn Heights around 6 p.m., Saturday, April 29 to rescue several people caught in flood waters when an elevated railroad bed was washed out by Center Creek after about 6-8 inches of rain fell in the region.
Couch, her husband, Sheldon, and their children, along with their extended family were caught by surprise when the track collapsed, releasing a wall of water that covered the area with 10-12 feet of rushing swirling water.

Flash flood
The railroad had served as a dike in past heavy rains such as the storm at the end of December 2015, protecting the small cluster of homes that housed the Couches and their extended family.
Cristina Couch said she and her husband were in the process of getting ready to leave because of the flooding threat when the wall of water hit, filling their mobile home in minutes with water up to their necks.
Couch said her husband and his parents, Kandy and Nick Couch, had been outside moving some pigs to higher ground, but they were slogging around in water up to their shins and they knew they needed to leave.
“We have a tiny car and it was covered in water already, and we were headed out, and he went to see if his dad was waiting,” Cristina Couch said. “I got the kids half dressed, Gage was dressed and I got a t-shirt and underwear on Nova and had her shoes and pants in my hands when Sheldon came back in and said 'We've gotta go now.'”
But it was too late.
Nick waved for his parents to get away and they were barely able to drive their four-wheel drive truck out of the rushing water.
Cristina Couch was on the phone with a 9-1-1 operator and the water was rising fast in the mobile home, so the couple decided to climb to the roof of the home.
Sheldon Couch went first.
“The Pontiac was parked right by the house and when the water lifted the rear end up, it floated against the trailer and lodged against the trailer under the air conditioning unit,” Cristina Couch said. “We came out the door, climbed on the porch, onto the trunk of the car, then I made him climb up first because he's taller. He got his foot on the board under the air conditioning unit and on the house, then I handed the kids up to him, then I tried to get up there but I couldn't because I'm short. He just had to pull me up there, I don't know how he did it.”
Cristina said her daughter, Nova, held on to her little brother while Sheldon Couch pulled Cristina to safety.
“He gave Gage to Nova and told her, I need you to be strong, I need you to be a big girl and I need you to hold Bubby and don't let go,” Cristina Couch said. “She did. She was quiet and watching the whole time.”
It appeared they were safe for a time, then the mobile home was washed loose and started to float downstream. Cristina was back on the phone telling the 9-1-1 operator where they were when the mobile home broke loose.
“We had just gotten on the roof and told the kids we'd be fine,” she said. “Then it started moving and I was screaming in the phone, 'It's moving, we're floating!' I was hysterical, I can't swim so I was terrified.”

New rescue tool
The call came in to Carthage Fire Department shortly after 6 p.m.
Firefighters hooked the department's brand new rescue boat and trailer to one of the four-wheel-drive brush trucks and headed to the scene.
This new boat had a much larger motor than the inflatable boat they had relied on for water rescues in the flood of December 2015. The new boat's motor was 60 horsepower compared to about 30 for the older boat, and the hull is rigid and solid, less vulnerable to punctures.
“It took the flood of 2015 to really open our eyes to what we needed,” said Carthage Fire Chief Roger Williams. “We decided we needed to improve our equipment after that incident and we got a bigger boat with a bigger motor. We've been working on getting other equipment to operate the boat, including wet-dry suits to protect the guys and more ropes. We'll get more of these things to finish out the budget year.”
The $14,000 boat arrived in February 2017 and firefighters had been out in it a few times training for the real thing.
In fact, Williams said firefighters took the boat to Spring River two days before this incident, after almost two inches of rain fell on the area, to try it out in real high, rushing water and see what it could do.
That training would come in handy on April 29.

Firefighters arrive
Fasano was at the wheel when firefighters deployed the boat in the rushing flood and headed to where people were thought to be trapped. Fasano, Firefighter John Browder and Fire Capt. Eli Maples were in the boat.
Fasano said there were rapids as far as they eye could see where the railroad had broken. He had to use the boat's horsepower to shoot through the rapids to get to the cluster of trailers.
Fasano said Browder first spotted the family perched on the roof of a trailer as the boat rounded a bend.
“We saw them on the roof, saw the babies and then it just kicked into high gear,” Fasano said. “Once you see the babies out there in danger, we have kids of our own around that age, so it kicked up a notch.”
Fasano worked the wheel to avoid debris, including railroad ties shooting down the rapids like torpedoes, and to get the boat up against the trailer.
When they arrived, Browder said the boat floated probably about a foot below the roofline of the trailer.
Cristina Couch said she was screaming with relief when she saw the boat. She and her husband held their kids tight, then handed them to the waiting firefighters as Fasano used the boat's motor to hold it steady in the rushing current.
“We handed the kids down first,” Cristina Couch said. “Sheldon handed Nova down first and Gage took off toward me. I handed Gage down and they told me to leave my bags, and I said, they're his diapers. I was hysterical.”

Heading to safety
As they pulled away from the mobile home, another problem cropped up.
“We actually got some debris sucked into our motor, it's a jet prop, so that makes you lose a little power,” Fasano said. “We had to serpentine up and shoot to a low branch just to get to a smooth area so we could clean out the motor and continue on.”
The three made several more trips into the rushing flood waters, the first to rescue Stephen and Althea Wood from inside their mobile home.
“The second time around, it was still pretty intense,” Fasano said. “It was rapids and huge waves, but we knew what we were going into this time, so we were able to maneuver better. It took a second to figure out which trailer it was, but once we did, we went along side, they were right at the door. Johnny had the pike pole, stabbed it in the roof to help us hold on while I adjusted the throttle and Eli busted out the top window of the door. We got a lady out, a dog, then a man and then another dog.”
They went back out to pick up a second lady and another dog, then made a fourth trip out as the sun was setting to rescue a family of four from a house downstream from the mobile homes.

Thank you
Cristina Couch said her family is recovering from their ordeal.
Nova still talks about the ordeal and is a little bit more reserved than normal.
The four of them are staying at her mother's home in a small room while her husband works to prepare a home in Duenweg for them.
Cristina Couch said the family had planned to move soon anyway, but the flood put a dent in their plans.
“It takes a hit to the confidence when you finally get ahead and then sh*& happens, to plainly put it,” she said. “Our car was waterlogged. We all four share a room together, and it's their storage room, so we had to push some stuff aside. We're sleeping on a futon and she's got her old toddler bed.”
Pages have been set up on the crowd funding site Gofundme, for Stephen and Althea Wood and Sheldon and Cristina Couch and their children.
The page for the Couch family is https://www.gofundme.com/victims-of-floodlost-everything
The page for the rest of the family and their band, Psalms Profit, is https://www.gofundme.com/flood-victims-who-lost-everything
Browder said it was neat to have the Couches come visit to say thank you.
“It's pretty humbling,” Browder said. “Not everybody does that, but it is what we're here for. It's nice when they do. We're glad to do it for anyone and glad to save a life. It hits home because we all have families, we all have kids their age.”
Five-year-old Nova said it best as Fasano was holding her in his arms Saturday at the fire station.
“Thank you.”