Portales man aids in rescue of family during flood

Argen Duncan

A family with ties to Portales lost almost everything they owned in a flash flood, but the father rescued a 2-year-old girl as disaster struck New Braunfels, Texas.

Harlan Carroll, a construction superintendent and road grader operator, and his family were visiting New Braunfels for a vacation and business trip and staying in the River Ranch RV Park. He said they had been living in their travel trailer since he was laid off last November.

The morning of June 9, the Guadalupe River overflowed its banks in a flash flood. The family was instructed to move uphill around 6:45 a.m., and alarms went off 15 minutes later.

Carroll’s wife, Jamie, took their children, 3-year-old Caitlyn and 9-year-old Chase, to safety while he stayed behind to hook the trailer up to the family’s larger pickup. Two minutes later, he said, the rush of water became too great, and he abandoned the RV to save the pickup.

He was able to drive the truck 30 feet uphill before it stalled in the water. The water wouldn’t allow him to open the driver’s-side door, so Carroll grabbed his wallet, went out the passenger window and began making his way up a fence line.

“We all just think there was no reason for that big ol’ monster diesel pickup to die where it did,” he said, “except I needed to be where I was.”

Just to his left were LaDeana McCauley and her two daughters, in need of help.

Larry McCauley, LaDeana’s husband, said he and his family were living in their trailer near the Carrolls. When he left for work at 6 a.m. that day, he said, the Guadalupe River was was still in its banks.

But just a short time later, LaDeana had to evacuate with 2-year-old Lyndie and 9-year-old Jailynne. The water was too high for them to leave in their sport utility vehicle.

Carroll and an owner at the RV park sprang into action. The park owner took Jailynne, and both were pulled from the water. Carroll got Lyndie, but the pair and LaDeana McCauley were caught in a current.

“I had the mother with me for just a second or two, (and) tried to hold my footing,” Carroll said. “I was fairly calm until the water took us, and then I had to get my senses back and calm down.

“You just have to stay as calm as you can.”

Harlan said Lyndie clung to him like a baby raccoon and didn’t cry or fight.

“He had a hold of my daughter,” Larry McCauley said, “and he kept a hold of her until they got out.”

Through what Carroll called luck, he and Lyndie managed to get behind a pile of debris and travel trailers, which broke the current so he could get his footing. A man came to their aid, and Carroll pointed a rescue swimmer in the direction the current had taken LaDeana McCauley. A rescue swimmer found her clinging to a tree.

Carroll estimated less than 10 minutes had passed from the time his family left to the time he was standing on the bank with Lyndie.

Larry McCauley drove up just as his family reached an ambulance, and Carroll found his family in the safe area.

The trailers of both families, with their belongings, were lost.

“It was a bad deal,” Larry McCauley said.

LaDeana McCauley and Carroll sustained minor injuries.

Extended family helped the McCauleys get an apartment in New Braunfels while Larry keeps working.

The Carrolls, meanwhile, are staying with Harlan’s mother in Portales while they try to decide what to do. The family truck was found under a bridge, battered and choked with debris. Harlan Carroll is determined to fix it.

“I don’t ever quit,” he said.