By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Staff Reporter
POLICE Sergeant Dominique McKenzie was not on duty when he sprung into rescue mode, saving not only his family, but six others from an apartment building that was overcome by rising flood water on Monday.
After getting them to safety, the officer and two other men risked their lives, wading through six to seven feet of water some 200 yards away to rescue an elderly woman trapped in neck-high water in her house for two days.
The woman was trapped in a remote area behind Dollar Deals store on Settler’s Way.
The 68-year-old, Miriam Evans, was in bad shape, with boils all over her body.
Their rescue came right in time. Ms Evans reportedly told the men she was about to give up after struggling to hold on for two days, trying to keep her head above water.
Now Sgt McKenzie and two other Grand Bahama men are being hailed as heroes.
The officer owns an apartment building that is across from the Jehovah’s Witness Church off Settler’s Way.
“The surge came in on Monday morning, and the water started to rise, and moved in very quickly,” he recalled. “It came into the first apartment on the eastern side and then it took over the other apartment units.”
The water rose about four feet inside but appeared to be seven feet high on the street outside.
Sgt McKenzie and his family, six other tenants including a disabled elderly woman, live in the apartment building. As the waters began to rise, he said he called his superintendent and told him he and several others needed to be rescued.
However, he was told police could not get to their location due to the storm conditions. They were advised to move to higher ground.
Sgt McKenzie said his wife was fearful that if they stayed in the home through the night, the situation would only get worse. Thinking quickly, he looked outside for higher ground. He saw a church across the street but the parking lot was filled with water.
“I looked at the church but I decided that was not the best place. Then I looked to my left and saw an abandoned two-storey building and decided that we will make a break for that building,” he said.
He took his wife and two children over first, entered the abandoned building, then went back for the others, including the disabled tenant.
He said they put the woman in a refrigerator, using it as a makeshift flotation device, and guided her over in about six to seven feet of water.
“It was an old refrigerator I had planned to move before the storm, and thank God we did not move (it),” he said. “We used the refrigerator as a boat and we were able to put her inside it, me and my wife and her brothers and we rescued ourselves and six others, pretty much.”
He said other neighbours also sought shelter in the abandoned building. They told him there was another woman who was trapped in her home who needed help.
“I said in the morning we have to check on the lady – dead or alive.”
On Tuesday, Sgt McKenzie and two friends ventured outdoors, as Dorian sat stalled over Grand Bahama with raging 150mph winds.
They took a hammer and flashlight.
The water was at their necks as they made their way to the woman’s house. They knocked on doors and windows until they heard a faint cry.
They pried the door open with a hammer and saw Ms Evans in the water.
“She was up to her neck, trying to keep her head above water. You could smell the strong odour of oil and gasoline and she said she stood in that for two days.
“She said she almost gave up. We got her out, she had a heart condition, and we took her back to our makeshift shelter in the abandoned building.”
Sgt McKenzie said Ms Evans was not in good shape, so when the flood water receded, they started to flag people down on the street for help to get her to hospital.
“No one stopped, persons looked in our face and sped off.”
He said his cousin, Samuel Major, passed by and he told him of their situation. His cousin helped the group to get to the hospital.
When asked if he felt like a hero, Sgt McKenzie said he and the others were just doing what needed to be done.