Feb. 15, 2023
JONESBORO — A Boy Scout or police officer helping an elderly couple cross the road is one of the most wholesome images of Americana, but in a recent event along the Black River, it was much more of an emergency action.
Arkansas Wildlife Officer Cpl. Dustin Smith was patrolling the Elgin area along Arkansas State Highway 37 on the west side of the Black River, when he approached a section that had been closed to through traffic due to high water. Cpl. Smith drove around the closure signs to see how much the river had gone down, where he met an employee from the County who was also assessing the water level. They both noticed a shape in the water, which turned out to be a car that had been swept off the highway about 400 yards from the water’s edge. An elderly couple, later identified as Roy and Margaret Hall had apparently driven around the barricades and tried to cross the swift water, resulting in their car becoming stranded. They were trying to walk back, but the current was strong and the water was thigh deep where they were trying to walk.
“I drove through the water as close as I could get to the couple and then exited my truck to approach them on foot,” Cpl. Smith said. “They were soaking wet and very cold from being submerged, so I helped them make it back to my truck, offering support in the difficult footing and swift water. Mrs. Hall was having some difficulty navigating the current by the time I reached them. I got them loaded up and backed my truck back to dry ground.”
Cpl. Smith handed the couple some blankets and towels to help get them dry and warm. He made contact with the Halls’ family using Mr. Hall’s phone and took them to their nephew’s house east of Cave City. The couple refused medical treatment, but thanked Cpl. Smith for his assistance.
While the incident resulted in little more than a stranded vehicle and some wet clothing, it could have been much worse if assistance had not been available nearby.
Col. Brad Young, chief of the AGFC’s Enforcement division said, “Cpl. Smith’s actions are a great example of how our officers work hard to be at the right place at the right time. His training in search and rescue techniques combined with real world experience as both a law enforcement officer and military veteran definitely helped prevent what could have been a very bad situation. I am proud of him as well as all of our other officers who prove daily that wildlife officers are at their best when situations are at their worst.”