Flash floods claimed the lives of at least five people in north Texas Monday and five others remain missing. But two lucky men were rescued from flood waters, after clinging to a tree branch for nearly four hours.
With his pet dog “Scruffy” at his side, David Ochs was headed to his new job as a home computer repair technician, when the waters started rising in Tom Bean, Texas, a small town north of Dallas.
“Basically, the water was calm like a little puddle, and then all of a sudden comes this rushing water,” Ochs, 55, said during an interview Tuesday with TODAY host Meredith Vieira. “Like they say, flash flood.”
The water quickly rose to about two feet in height. Within 10 minutes, the water was up to the window of Ochs’ car.
A short time later, volunteer firefighter Brandon Beck answered Ochs’ 911 call and arrived with a Jet Ski and another firefighter to try to help.
The watercraft got tangled up with the car, and all three men and Scruffy were tossed into the raging current.
The other firefighter worked feverishly to get the Jet Ski upright and was able to go to get more help. To wait for rescuers, Beck grabbed hold of Ochs and Scruffy and swam to a low lying tree branch.
Minutes turned into hours; Ochs became increasingly fatigued.
Beck, a firefighter about two years, recalled his training and did the best thing he could for Ochs. Beck talked to him.
“That’s important in any rescue situation, to keep the victim talking, keep him alert, keep him conscious,” Beck told Vieira. “The mental game is part of survival. If I could keep him talking and carry on several conversations, I knew we’d both be more there mentally and not so worried about the outcome.”
After clinging to the tree branch for nearly four hours, Ochs and Beck were finally rescued by firefighters who arrived in a small boat.
Battling the strong current, the firefighters managed to pull both Ochs and Beck to safety. They were examined at an area hospital and released.
Ochs’ four-legged companion, however, remains missing.
Several hours into the ordeal, Ochs shifted his body to get a better grip and Scruffy escaped his grasp. Ochs instinctively let go of the branch to go after her, but Beck held him back.
Ochs realizes he is fortunate have survived the raging waters, and he owes that to Beck’s quick reaction when Ochs let go of the branch.
Scruffy, who traveled everywhere with Ochs during their 11 years together, got swept up in a surge of water. Ochs wasn’t going to let her go that easily.
“Scruffy lost her balance and slipped through my belly and arm and got away,” Ochs told TODAY before he appeared on the show.
“I let go of the tree and Brandon pulled me right in,” Ochs said. “He wouldn't let me go. I wanted to go get him, the dog was like my child … I was upset that he wouldn't let me go after the dog, but what could I do? I knew that he was trying to save my life.”