HEAR THE 911 CALL: First responders rescue man pinned under tree during hurricane in Suwannee County

Rescuers typically don't respond to calls when winds are over 45 mph
Posted at 6:19 PM, Sep 08, 2023
  • First responders jumped into action in the middle of Hurricane Idalia to rescue a man who was trapped under a tree in his house.
  • The team was able to get that man out of that house in about 45 minutes.
  • Watch the video to hear from the men and women who helped save the man.

A morning that first responders in Live Oak are never going to forget.

"It's one of those calls that will go down in history, because you don't get a call like that every day.

I'm Ashley Engle in Live Oak where I spoke with men in women who were on duty when Hurricane Idalia came through the town August 30th. That morning, many didn't think they were going to receive the call that you're about to hear.

"Suwannee County 9-1-1 what's your emergency?"

"There's a tree fallen on our house. It's in my grandpa's room. Please send help. The roof fell in and my dad is underneath the debris."

On the morning of August 30th, a man was in danger as Hurricane Idalia blew into Suwannee County. Intensifying wind made it unsafe for first responders to take calls.

Suwannee County Fire Chief Eddie Hand said "Our response is shut down when we reach 45 mile per hour sustained winds. When this call came in, we have already ceased operations 10-15 minutes prior to receiving the call."

Both Suwannee County Fire Chief Eddie Hand and Live Oak Fire Chief Sid Hayes told me that they knew it was dangerous for the crew to respond to calls during that time. But they had one decision to make. That decision…..to save a life…. Before…. it was too late and crew didn't say no... and suited up.

Kyle Nickerson Assistant Chief Live Oak Fire Department said, "Chief Hayes and Chief hand were talking about, and chief asked me and I said 'lets do it' we got crews there we can do it."

Heading to the scene, the crew knew it was a risk but it was a risk they were willing to take despite the danger.

Kyle Nickerson Assistant Chief Live Oak Fire Department said, "Trees were coming down all around the house. So as far as the crews, there was a concern for the crews in the house for more trees coming down."

Crews found a man who was under a tree that fell on the home. The tree fell on the man's leg pinning him to his bed.

Zach Smith Suwannee County Fire Rescue said, "Once we got there, I was just focused on getting him out and wasn't really focused on the storm or the winds or anything."

It took first responders and Live Oak National Guard 45 minutes to get the man out and rushed to the hospital.

Matthew Lamendola Suwannee County Fire Rescue Captain said, "We have a great team, a great leader who kept everyone on track during the whole operation and how we actually had to do the job"

"The lifting of the tree and getting the patient out was a full on collaborative of the two departments."

I spoke with both departments, and they tell me that they do not have an update on the man they saved but them and Live Oak National Guard were glad that they took the risk to save his life. In Live Oak, I'm Ashley Engle, ABC 27.