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Utility workers honored for recent water rescue

Johnson County presents the Agape Award to the five Mountain Electric employees that saved Laurel Bloomery woman Cathy Souder during a recent water rescue.  Photo by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens

Mountain Electric Co-op utility workers have been saturating local news outlets since five employees were involved in rescuing Laurel Bloomery woman Cathy Souder from a near-death situation on February 6. The Johnson County Commissioners invited Rick Courtner, Cody Bryant, Dakota Tester, Charlie Grindstaff, and Molly Ingle to the Johnson County Commission meeting on February 20 to recognize their deeds.

County Mayor Mike Taylor introduced the subject then passed the floor over to Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jason Blevins (TN-CEMP), who shared details of the road conditions and the rescue. Souder was driving on State Road 91 North when complications from the hazardous weather sent a tree crashing down on her vehicle and her vehicle into Laurel Creek. Her truck floated approximately 300 feet before being lodged in the middle of the creek tightly against the rocks. Blevins recounted an officer’s comment that a tape measure could not have fit in the space between.

“It was just out of reach of all the equipment that had been dispatched to the scene,” reported Director Blevins. “We had different options we could do but, with the time and the crucial emergency of the situation, and for the safety of the lady in the truck, we needed to work fast. We were all working together and racking our brains to come up with an idea of what we could do. “

That is when those on the scene came up with the idea to involve Mountain Electric and its bucket truck. After approximately 90 minutes trapped inside her partially submerged vehicle, Souder was safely rescued and left the scene with minor injuries. She showed up to the County Commission meeting to thank the utility workers she credits with saving her life.

“I know you folks already have said you don’t want to be recognized as heroes, and I’m going to honor those wishes,” Mayor Taylor told the honorees. “So in the words of our Lord, he says no greater love hath any than that he would lay down his life for his friend. At this time, it is my privilege to present to you from Johnson County, from the County Commission, and from myself, the Agape award.”

Taylor called each honoree to the front of the courtroom. There he awarded them a custom award, the Agape Award. Taylor explained that agape is a word used in the Bible that translates to selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love. The County Commissioners and attendees gave the honorees a standing ovation.