When town of Pulaski employee Mark Bentley helped rescue a woman from flooding last January, he said he wasn’t looking for glory, but those actions helped earn him Pulaski’s “Employee of the Year” award for 2013.
“Taking a piece of heavy construction equipment into a raging, flooded stream, requires a cool, calm head, not to mention the ability to maneuver a large piece of equipment with no margin for error,” Mayor Jeff Worrell said in announcing the winner at the town’s annual Employee Luncheon and Awards Ceremony. “Yet, the skill and precision gained from long years of experience paid off with a successful rescue.”
Worrell added, “After performing this selfless and courageous act, (Bentley) stated that (he) would not have left without the victim even if (he) had to swim in and out to rescue her. He then refused any compensation offered and any overtime pay that he might have received.”
Eanes was about to go to bed last January when he got a call that his skills were needed to operate some heavy equipment to help rescue a woman from her vehicle, which had become stranded in swift moving flood waters off Eanes Ferry Road in Hiwassee.
Swift water rescue teams had tried to reach the woman, but the width of the raging water prevented them from being able to safely do so. When an hour passed and efforts had failed someone suggested trying heavy equipment.
Initially, the plan was to tie a raft to the arm of the excavator and have Bentley swing it around to the car with rescuers onboard. But the rigging crew they needed was about 30 minutes away.
“I told them ‘Let’s just drive out there (on the excavator) and get her, put her in the bucket and carry her back out,” Bentley told The Southwest Times at that time. “It was a whole lot safer and she’d already been out there too long.”
To make sure the land under the flood water was stable, Bentley “did a test run” alone. “I figured if something’s going to happen, then it’s just going to be me,” he said. “So, I drove the excavator out in the middle of it. The first time I was probably within 50 feet of her and I was almost tempted to just go get her, jerk her out and throw her in the cab.”
Once he determined the ground was stable, two rescue personnel were tethered inside the bucket so he could haul them out to the car. The woman crawled out through a window into the bucket and he hauled them all back to safety.
Bentley said he wasn’t scared, adding, “I didn’t even think about it. If you get in that situation you have to keep your wits about you.” He said he was more scared watching the car the woman was stranded in bobbing up and down in the water.
Worrell said it was Bentley’s 25 years of experience operating heavy equipment and his “highly referenced work that spoke for itself” that prompted the town to hire Bentley.
“When (Bentley) accepted a position with the town, we quickly found out that we could give (him) any assignment or project and never have to question that it would be completed promptly, accurately, and to the satisfaction of all parties involved. (He) has received rave reviews from citizens and fellow employees for … incomparable ability and skill in performing … work for the town,” said Worrell.
The town also recognized employees for their years of service during the luncheon.