Running towards danger

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, October 25, 2016

WINTON – While the great majority of Hertford County’s general population was safely tucked inside their homes while Hurricane Matthew howled outside on Oct. 8, a few brave souls were running towards danger.

And for their efforts, lives were saved.

In a brief ceremony held here Friday, Hertford County Sheriff Dexter Hayes recognized the bravery of four of his deputies for their actions to ensure the safety and well-being of those trapped by the storm.

“We take an oath to protect and serve, and that’s exactly what these men did on the night of Saturday, Oct. 8,” said Hayes.

The Sheriff pinned Ribbons of Valor on the uniforms of Captain Michael Stephenson, Sgt. John Parker, Deputy William Keith Lassiter, and Deputy John Michael Timberlake.

“I want to do this on behalf of our officers, and on behalf of the citizens of our county,” said Hayes as he called, one by one, the names of the foursome to stand in front of their law enforcement peers who had gathered on the lawn of the Sheriff’s Office in downtown Winton.

“We are recognizing these four deputies for their meritorious service during the hurricane,” Sheriff Hayes continued.

Hayes then shared the acts of bravery shown by these four men on Oct. 8.

He said Stephenson, Parker and Timberlake all responded to a call for help on Pinetops Road regarding a female motorist who had encountered high water while traveling. Her vehicle had veered off the road and into a wooded area. She was trapped inside.

“Without regard for their own safety, Captain Stephenson, Sgt. Parker, and Deputy Timberlake jumped into action,” Hayes noted. “They entered rushing water, as did members of the Murfreesboro Fire Department, and helped to save that lady’s life. They pulled her out of the vehicle and to safety.”

Also on Oct. 8, Deputy Lassiter got behind the wheel of one of the Millennium Fire Department’s vehicles and entered an area of extremely high water on a stretch of NC 305 in an effort to make sure the road was not washed out.

“He assisted the Millennium firemen in bringing a family to safety whose vehicle had stalled out in the floodwaters,” Hayes said. “The water was waist deep inside the vehicle from where those victims were rescued.”

The Sheriff described heroes as “people who do not think about it….they just jump into action.”

“These four men went above and beyond what they are trained to do,” Hayes stressed. “Without giving it a second thought, they jumped into danger and saved lives and I commend them for their bravery and their actions. They risked their own lives to save others.”

Hayes also mentioned that Lassiter’s home was among those in the county that flooded during Hurricane Matthew.

“He went home to check on things and then came back to work. He continued to work until he was asked to stand down. That’s a selfless act; his house was damaged, but yet he was there to help others in their time of need,” Hayes stated.

The Sheriff said he had “all hands on deck” during and after the storm.

“Some were working their normal shifts that night; everyone else was on call because we knew it was going to be a busy night,” Hayes remarked. “Before we left the office on the Friday before the hurricane hit, we had put a plan together to have deputies stationed in various areas of the county. That turned out to be a great plan, considering how the roads were. That cut down on response time. If we had not done that, I don’t think we could have answered all those calls.”

He said the majority of the calls that night were weather related, including the two incidents where the lives of trapped motorists were saved thanks to the bravery of four members of the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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