Barry Williams, owner-operator of New Line Transport from Moundville, Alabama, leaped into the water after he saw a vehicle go airborne, then become submerged in French Creek on US Highway 80.
He was awarded this morning with the Medal of Valor from the Demopolis Police Department, along with the Key to the City.
Fight Or Flight
On August 1, 2017, Williams began his day just like any other. While driving on the highway, around 1:48 pm, another truck passed him and struck the vehicle in front of Williams.
Williams told The West Alabama Watchman, “As I was driving down the highway, I’m in the right lane. She probably was maybe a good truck and a half in front of me. So, when the truck passed by me in the left lane, he cleared me at least by a truck and a half. He came straight over on her. As he hit her, he caught her back bumper, kind of went down her driver’s door and she spun around. She went around the guard rail. She missed the guard rail, but she went airborne. As she went airborne, she went straight down and the car twisted around.”
After seeing the car travel through the air into the water, Williams jumped out of his truck. He ran to the side rail to see if anyone in the car was able to get out.
He saw the driver take her last breath and knew he needed to help her.
Williams recounts, “As I saw that she wasn’t coming out, it looked like she was taking her last breath. So, it was either me taking a chance and running way back around the other side or jumping. So, I just jumped in. I wasn’t scared of the water because I knew how to swim.”
Once in the water, Williams began to panic; however, he was able to collect himself to get the driver out. He started by trying to pull the door open, while simultaneously pulling her out, but soon realized she was still wearing her seatbelt.
There was another man that jumped into the water to help.
Rescued By A Hero
Once the two men had the driver out of the sinking car and onto the bank, emergency response took over.
The driver of the submerged car was discovered to be 68-year-old Octavia Wagstaff.
She is still recovering from the injuries of the accident. She is suffering from 2 broken ribs, a broken sternum, a right ankle injury, deep lacerations on both sides of her pelvis, and a deep laceration on her elbow.
Following the accident, Williams said he simply continued on with his day.
Medal of Valor
The Demopolis Police Department commended Williams’ for his call to action rather than reaching for his cell phone to record the accident.
Williams was rewarded a monetary gift from Octavia Wagstaff’s brother Robert Wagstaff.
Wiliams was also awarded the Medal of Valor from the Demopolis Police Department, as well as the Key to the City from Mayor John Laney as a gesture of gratitude for his heroic action.
Take Life Day By Day
Williams’ wife, Kala, and 2 children, Kennedy and Kendall, also attended the Demopolis City Council meeting.
Kala recalls her phone call with her husband right after the accident, “He called me. I guess he was still freaked out,” she said, recalling the afternoon of Aug. 1. “He acted like it didn’t happen for a while. I guess it took a while for him to process what had happened. The biggest thing he said was, ‘I didn’t get my load. I missed my load.”
Williams heroic efforts were all in a day’s work – even though he missed his load.
Learn How To Survive An Emergency
Watch this video below with information about the best ways to escape a sinking vehicle: