For 18 Hours, 3 Men in Houston Fought for Survival in Hurricane Harvey

For 18 Hours, 3 Men in Houston Fought for Survival in Hurricane Harvey

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Their story reflects the mind-boggling and unforgiving destruction wrought by Harvey.

“We were taking turns in yelling for help in the darkness,” Alan Butterfield, a reporter for The Daily Mail, told the British publication about the episode. “I promised him we were not going to die, we were going to make it.”

Mr. Butterfield and Mr. Connellan, a photographer, were in stable condition on Thursday at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital in Houston, according to The Daily Mail. Mr. Connellan’s hands were cut as he held onto the tree and his face battered, and Mr. Butterfield broke a toe and cut his knee.

Mr. Connellan did not return requests for comment on Thursday, and Mr. Butterfield, reached by phone at the hospital on Thursday afternoon, referred questions to a Daily Mail spokesman, who did not return a request for comment. The Texas Department of Public Safety did not return a request for comment.

The other man rescued, identified by relatives as Jose Vizueth, 30, was also at a hospital. On Thursday, family members and volunteers searched brush along the Green Bayou east of downtown Houston for the missing men, Benjamin Vizueth, 31, and Gustavo Rodriguez-Hernandez, 40.

Alan Butterfield, a reporter with The Daily Mail, left, and Ruaridh Connellan, a photographer traveling with him, right.

Credit
Ben Jimmy Vizueth, via Facebook

“We need to find these boys,” Perla Jaquez, the wife of Benjamin Vizueth, said in a video on Facebook during the search. “It’s been three days already and nothing yet. We pray they are in a hospital.”

The two men who died were identified by the authorities as Jorge Raul Perez and Yahir Rubio-Vizuet.

The paths of the seven men intersected Monday afternoon. The two journalists landed in Texas to cover Harvey’s landfall, staking out a part of the Texas Gulf Coast south of Houston bracing for the destructive winds and pummeling rains.

They reported on Saturday about a family in Rockport who refused to evacuate their home and lost almost everything, narrowly surviving as water filled their home. Then they traveled inland to Victoria, writing about how they had rescued a dog tied to a pole in rising floodwater.

By Monday afternoon, the two journalists had made their way into Houston and spotted another possible story off Highway 90 in the eastern part of the city. Water covered streets and nearly topped bridges, submerging homes and neighborhoods in feet of floodwater.

The Greens Bayou, which flows under the highway during normal conditions, had swollen into a roaring river, and five men were about to use a small motorboat to try to rescue a relative in a wheelchair stuck in her home. The men invited Mr. Butterfield and Mr. Connellan to tag along and document it.

But something went awry a few minutes into the journey. Battling fierce currents, the boat lost control and veered off course — defenseless as the raging river pushed it toward fallen power lines dangling in the water. Only about 20 feet from the lines, the seven men all jumped into the water.

Mr. Butterfield and Mr. Connellan plunged into the bayou, their bodies tingling from the electrical current. When Mr. Butterfield surfaced, he told The Daily Mail, he heard his colleague about 50 feet away screaming his name. The boat had struck the lines and was smoking.

As the current pulled the journalists and Mr. Vizueth downstream, Mr. Butterfield said, he yelled for them to try to grab a tree. The men latched onto one, and Mr. Butterfield and Mr. Vizueth took off their shoes so they could grip the tree and climb it, according to The Daily Mail.

But Mr. Connellan was out of energy and could not pull himself up out of the water. He held onto a branch in the water, repeatedly asking his colleague if they would make it out alive, the publication said.

“I didn’t tell the others, but I thought we might be there until at least Thursday until the water receded,” Mr. Butterfield told The Daily Mail. “I could see from the water mark on the trees that it had hardly gone down in the 18 hours we were there.”

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