PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office held an award ceremony Friday morning to honor employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Capt. Jeremy Small and civilian employee Christopher Leverette were both honored for life-saving efforts in the Bristol Park neighborhood in Cantonment during Hurricane Sally.
Small and Leverette responded Sept. 16 to Bristol Park Road with the ECSO high-rise rescue vehicle. They were called to assist a family that had fled to the roof of their house to avoid rising flooding conditions.
While responding Small and Leverette encountered several hazards, including downed trees and power lines and raging 4-foot flood waters.
Small and Leverette arrived and immediately began assistant families, said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. At one point, Leverette lost his footing and became submerged under the rough flood waters for about 10 seconds, Morgan said.
Once recovered from the fall, Small and Leverette found a tow strap and a floating kayak and used them to rescue residents.
“I remember we put a small kid in a car seat,” Small said. “We put it on the kayak and used it make its way over.”
Small said once the rescue vehicle was at capacity, it suddenly came inoperable.
“We couldn’t move forward or backwards,” he said.
With quick thinking, the men then used a civilian boat to rescue residents out of the rescue truck.
In all, the men rescued about 100 residents. For their actions, Small received the Medal of Courage and Life Saving Award. Leverette received the Civilian Service Medal.
Small said what he did to save residents in September was just a part of his job.
“Ultimately, you have to have a can do attitude that you can get through it,” he said.
Barbara Nickell, one of dozens of Bristol Park residents rescued by the men, said when she realized she was going to be rescued by Small, she was overjoyed.
“He was an angel in disguise,” she said. “He was an angel. It was a bright light. I saw him there and I can’t thank him enough for getting us.”
Nickell said she believes the men deserve praise.
“He saved all of our lives,” she said. “Honestly, that’s how I feel.”
Lifesaving awards were also given out to honor law enforcement involved in stopping the Grocery Advantage active shooter and the NAS Pensacola mass shooter.
To watch the ceremony, go to our WKRG Facebook page.
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