Tennessee Flooding: Couple in helicopter rescue 17 people trapped on rooftops

WAVERLY, Tenn. — A helicopter pilot and his fiancee rescued 17 people from rooftops during torrential flooding that inundated Middle Tennessee over the weekend.

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Joel Boyers had just finished helping his fiancee earn her pilot’s license on Saturday when he got a call from a woman in Pennsylvania asking if he could rescue her brother, whose home in Waverly was underwater.

Boyers, who owns Helistar Aviation, could not say no.

“I thought, ‘How would I feel if I told her I’m not even going to try?’” he told The Associated Press Thursday. “She just so happened to call the right person, because I’m the only person crazy enough to even try to do that.”

Boyers, a pilot for 16 years, had to contend with power lines, balance the helicopter skids on sloped roofs and hover over raging floodwaters.

Melody Among acted as his co-pilot, helping as the spotter and even taking the controls.

They saw boats and a person on a personal watercraft helping stranded residents.

They lifted four people from the roof of a farm supply store. A woman rescued there said her husband had been swept away. Her daughter was on the roof of a nearby gas station. Boyers rescued her too.

In another rescue, they saw a house that was surrounded by rising water. Boyers touched down and rescued the people inside. In all, he was able to help 17 people.

“Every landing was pretty dangerous,” he said, noting he’s already reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration. “I know the FAA can take my license away if they see me flying like that.”

He said he told the agency he did not charge anyone he rescued, no one was injured, the aircraft was not damaged and no law enforcement helicopters were in the air.

The flooding killed 20 people, destroyed 270 houses and damaged 160 other homes.

Later, Boyers heard from the woman who called initially. She said her family was safe. Boyers is not sure if he rescued him or someone else did.

“I literally prayed just days before this that God would give me some meaning in my life, and then I end up getting this call,” Boyers said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.