Local flood rescuers to be recognized on national stage

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (KXAN) – Two first responder groups based in Travis County will be recognized at a national conference next week for their heroic work during the Oct 31 floods.

The National Association for Search and Rescue will honor Travis County STAR Flight and Austin/Travis County EMS’ Special Operations team in separate awards for their lifesaving work when Onion Creek spilled its banks.

“Although there is always an element of heroism involved in dangerous technical rescue operations, these are not awards for heroism, but rather awards that recognize preparedness, teamwork, and a job well done—sometimes under extreme conditions—where training is vital to the success of rescue missions, as well as the safety of rescue personnel,” said Nancy Rigg with the search and rescue association.

STAR Flight crews rescued 32 people and several pets overnight Oct 30.  ATCEMS team saved 79 others trapped in the rising waters.

ATCEMS Chief Ernie Rodriguez and three members of the special operations team will travel to New Jersey next week to receive what will be their third NASAR award. EMS spokesperson Cmdr. Mike Benevides tells KXAN the agency received the previous honors for their rescue work in hurricanes.

Over the past 21 years, the Higgins & Langley Awards have increased awareness about the need for specialized swiftwater and flood rescue training and preparedness.

The awards are named in honor of Earl Higgins, a writer and filmmaker, who lost his life in 1980 while rescuing a child who was swept down the flood-swollen Los Angeles River, and Los Angeles County Firefighter Paramedic Jeffrey Langley, a pioneer in swiftwater rescue, who lost his life in a helicopter incident in 1993, according to the association’s release.


NASAR 2014 Higgins & Langley Awards for outstanding achievement in the technical rescue discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue.

Outstanding Achievement Award

Travis County STAR Flight
Travis County, TX

In honor of STAR Flight’s steadfast commitment of many years to the highest standards of swiftwater and flood rescue training, preparedness, professionalism, and dedication, which culminated in the technically challenging rescues of 32 victims, who were swept away, surrounded, or stranded by dangerous flood waters generated by severe thunderstorms on October 30-31, 2013. Without Travis County STAR Flight’s robust swiftwater rescue program, numerous lives would surely have been lost in these devastating storms.


Swiftwater Rescue Incident Awards

Austin-Travis County EMS
Special Operations Team
Austin, TX

When a ferocious series of storms swept through Central Texas, beginning the night of October 30, and continuing through October 31, 2013, Austin-Travis County Swiftwater Rescue Team members performed multiple, dangerous and technically challenging rescues of 79 individuals and evacuated another 100 people and pets from rooftops, trees, cars, and homes. Austin-Travis County Special Operations is to be commended for an impressive and longtime commitment to flood and swiftwater rescue preparedness, which has consistently paid off in the saving of lives. 

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