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Pelham woman speaks about being rescued from the top of a van during October flood

Published: Oct. 24, 2021 at 12:09 AM CDT
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PELHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Pelham community came together to save a woman clinging to the top of a van during the floods on October 6th. The woman spoke to WBRC about the night she believes she almost died.

“I woke up, and I was surrounded by water,” said Penny Gibson.

Sucked from her home by powerful floodwaters, Penny Gibson, a single mother of two, said it was the scariest night of her life.

“The current was pulling me under. And every time I would come up, I would scream for help,” Gibson recalled.

While screaming for help, Gibson said she heard screams in the distance from neighbors saying, ‘get on top of the car!’

“Then I hit the van and I held on to the van,” Gibson said.

Then, Gibson said a neighbor risked his own life to help her, braving the flood, pulling Gibson to the top of the van.

The entire ordeal was captured by other neighbors, shocked as it unfolded.

“His name is Joel Herrera. I didn’t know him up until then,” Gibson said. “The water kept rising, and it almost rose over the van, and I thought that was it.”

Gibson said rescue crews with the Pelham Police and Pelham Fire Department were having a hard time getting to them, but eventually made it and pulled the pair from the van by canoe.

Gibson said they were saved with seconds to spare.

“Once they rescued me at some point, the van pushed all the way into the back of my yard and knocked my whole entire fence down. You can see the damage it’s done to the van. It’s busted all the windows out, dented it. That’s where it hit the tree. That’s how strong that water was. And, it’s just amazing that I was saved,” she said.

She said her faith kept her going, including having support from her church family at Redemption Church and Pastor Aaron Knight.

Gibson moved in with a friend because she said her home had extensive damage, and she was trying to figure out how to renovate and replace her property because she didn’t have flood insurance.

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