Viral photo from Beaumont features Arlington EMT

EMT takes water from Coca-Cola plant

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A photo that's widely gaining attention online captures the moment an EMT waded through waist-high water to get to clean drinking water from a Coca-Cola warehouse in Beaumont, hard-hit by Harvey.

"I've gotten a lot of people that are calling me a hero, and I'm just not," said Sam Byers, the man in the image. "I wanted to help, and I was there."

Byers, 21, is an EMT for AMR Ambulance Service in Arlington. He started in the career two years ago because he has a passion for helping others.

"There's no better feeling than helping somebody when they need it. That's why we do what we do," he said.

So when Harvey hit, he traveled with a friend to Beaumont on his day off. They assisted with rescues and emergency care, seeing firsthand the desperation in flooded neighborhoods. They also quickly realized that the biggest need in the region was clean drinking water. The city's water supply was shut off by the flood.

"I come from a country family, and there's an old saying, 'Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over,'" he said. "That couldn't be more true down there. People were getting into legitimate fights over water."

He saw families lining up to wait for bottled water to drink and cook with, so the Eagle Scout used his resources to help. Out with a crew on a rescue mission, they noticed a Coca-Cola warehouse that what was flooded and closed.  They wondered if there was vital water available inside.

"There was probably tons of supplies in there, but we didn't know," he recalled.

So, he said, they called up Coca-Cola and got permission to break in.

"They told us that it would be better for them to give it to us, if we could get in there and get it," he said. "It would be better than for looters to go in and take it. If we can distribute it to the community, we don't know how many people we could help."

A newspaper photographer traveling with Byers that day snapped the photo as he opened the gates for a hovercraft to enter the warehouse. It took some effort to get inside. He had to use a hammer to break a lock and then smash a window. 

"It took several attempts to get into that gate," he said. "Inside the factory, the water was probably up to my waist."

Still, once inside, they found plenty of bottled water still in good condition. They carried out 36 cases of water on the hovercraft in multiple trips, and the National Guard later returned to carry out additional supplies of beverages to help families in urgent need. Byers is thankful that Coke cooperated with their effort.

"Allowing us just to have those resources, it helped a lot of people," he said.

The "Real Thing" and the right man for the job.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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