Firefighters rescue flood victim who warns of dangers

Louis Smth
Louis Smth

WAIANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Friday, American Red Cross workers provided food and shelter to those who've lost everything in the flood waters of this week's heavy rains.

Among them, one man who shares his harrowing escape from death after he was rescued from raging flood waters in Waianae.

Flood survivor Louis Smith is lucky to be alive. He and a female passenger got stuck in these raging waters on Puhawai Street late Wednesday night.

Smith told us, "When I went down the hill, that was my mistake. I shouldn't have even, but the car went right underneath the water."

The two managed to escape the sinking car, only to be swept up in the cold rapid waters. He said, "I was underwater, trying to paddle for go up like that and I was thinking, I cannot die this way. Not drowning."

A man who lives close by, Steven Deperalta, expressed, "I seen him driving in and eventually, his headlights disappeared."

Smith owes his life to Honolulu firefighters who risked theirs to save the two.

Deperalta described the situation: "They had ropes and stuff tied on to hold on. Even one of the firemen fell in the water. The water was so strong."

Theresa, another who lives close by explained the road by saying, "It's very dangerous. People they do the walking and the jogging, up and down here, exercise. It's not safe period. It's very dangerous."

Residents complain about the annual danger every winter.

Neighbors say for much of the year, this is a bone dry river bed but the other night the heavy rains raised the waters to the height of your eyeballs and came rushing through this entire area, relocating trees and flattening the land. Smith was right in the middle of it.

He said, "Had like big logs, coolers, and big tires floating. All kind stuff floating by. How are we going to get across?"

And there's so much dangerous debris in the water. Metal that could have easily punctured his body. Dangerous materials you don't want to drive over either.

Steven Deperalta said he knows crews are trying to help, "City and County, I believe, the last rain that we had they opened up this side a little to let the water out."

But is it enough? Today hazardous debris remains on the road. Puhawai Street is technically closed, but, "The City and County putting the cones up, but the people, they still drive through no matter what," Theresa Deperalta told us.

But, the drivers said they don't worry about going through the area, because they do it all the time. Neighbors want more protections and even signs to warn drivers of the flood dangers, or a bridge, so this doesn't happen again.

Smith has lost pretty much everything since his destroyed car, now full of mud and water was his home: "Feel my pain, this is nuts." Smith says he's grateful to firefighters and the red cross who fed and sheltered him last night. He hopes his life changing experience is a lesson to others: beware of driving into flooded waters.

State Civil Defense went by Puhawai street to survey the damage.

Drivers are warned if they enter the flood waters on Puhawai, they do so at their own risk.

Friday afternoon, the Red Cross closed its temporary shelter at Waianae District Park, since most of the flood victims have found other shelter.

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