ABC News(BOSSIER PARISH, LA.) — An elderly neighbor with a boat became a hero in Louisiana on Monday when he and two sheriff’s deputies saved a man and two dogs stuck in a tree after his boat sank.
The watery rescue scene unfolded on Lake Bistineau after the stranded boater made a series of desperate 911 calls.
Later identified by law enforcement officials as Christopher Burns, the man tried calling 911 multiple times before being cut off, only getting into contact with the dispatchers after they repeatedly tried calling him back.
“That’s a real blessing,” said Lt. Bill Davis, the public information officer for Bossier County Sheriff’s Office, going on to call the dispatchers “tenacious.”
Once he finally got through, Burns told the dispatchers that he was trying to save himself by clinging to a cypress tree with his two dogs.
Burns, an electronic maintenance manager, was wearing a life jacket but his dogs weren’t. Davis said “he had been holding tightly to them to make sure they were OK, and he had been there a good 45 minutes or so.”
Burns told ABC News that was on a boat ride with his dogs, a samoyed husky and a sabrina husky, when water quickly flooded the craft.
Recalling the incident, Burns told ABC News he was wondering “how long it’s going take to get somebody out here. How long can I hold on for?”
He said he was more worried about his dogs than about himself.
“I don’t think they really understood what was happening or what was going on,” he said, adding that they were about 400 yards from land and the water was about 10 feet deep.
Deputies Tim Wynn and Duane Washington were dispatched to Burns’ home. From there, they checked with neighbors to see if they had a boat they could borrow.
“Our deputies went from door to door checking with people, and we finally got in touched with a gentlemen, and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a pontoon boat right here,’” Davis said.
Washington told ABC News that the kind neighbor was retired septuagenarian Thomas Murthree, who didn’t hesitate to help with the rescue.
“He said, ‘Let’s go, I have a pontoon boat at the back. Let’s go out on the water,'” Washington recalled.
The two deputies and Murthree got on his boat and set out to find Burns and his dogs. They found him about 10 minutes later.
“He was very happy to see our folks,” Davis said. “I’ve just met him this morning with his wife. They have no children. These dogs are their children.”
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