Big Wheels save lives
Bridge City’s Aaron Campbell, 26, built his truck himself but says there’s enough there to call it a Dodge.
It’s a “mud truck” with 68-inch wheels, and he’s driven it through “mud bogs” around the state of Texas.
It’s a recreational thing, like what folks do with All-Terrain Vehicles. It’s not an official competition, he says: “ … you just drive to see who can go the farthest or the fastest.
“I’ve always built my own four-wheel drives. I built this one like that because I got tired of getting stuck.”
It didn’t get stuck at all on the day Hurricane Ike hit.
“About 5:30 in the morning a friend of mine called and said some senior citizens in the back of my neighborhood were sitting on the roof of their house, and it was the only dry spot they had left,” he says.
Campbell lives in the Victory Gardens area. “I waited till the sun came up so I could see my way around and drove down there.”
Earlier, after his power went out, he decided to ride out the bulk of the storm at Guilbeaux’s towing and wrecker offices, where he has friends. Near the corner of South Texas 87 and Texas 62, its one of the highest spots of ground in the Bridge City area, he says. There, he watched the roof blow off the building.
Snappy’s convenience store, close by, became a kind of “headquarters” for his volunteer operation.
Helping him either all day or at various times were his sister, Jayne Campbell, her friend Clay Bourdier and deputies Terry Manuel and Fred Ashworth. Campbell estimates that in all they rescued 45 to 50 people.
“In most of the places we went, the water was more than 6-feet deep,” he says.
“We found an aluminum boat floating around and we tied it to the back bumper. Just about everyone we picked up were elderly, or their pets. We just went door-to-door, basically is what we did, to see if anyone needed help. At Snappy’s, the store wasn’t under water, but anytime we pulled out, we were in it. It was so high, you couldn’t see the tops of a lot of mailboxes. We did this for about 12 hours. We’d take everyone to Snappy’s and drop them off.”
Campbell and his team had to physically move a 90-year-old woman. She weighed about 70 or 80 pounds and was too weak to move. They also helped a three-week-old baby girl and her mother.
Campbell, a Bridge City High School graduate and utility worker for a family business, Campbell’s Electric, says the team didn’t have time to stop for food or drinks. At one point, they helped lead a CNN camera crew into the Bridgeview section.
That was as far as CNN’s producers would let them go, for safety reasons.
Of course, most folks in Bridge City had no idea CNN was even there since everyone lost power either late Friday or early Saturday.
“Everyone was surprised to find they were there since there had been so much [media] emphasis on Galveston and Houston,” he says.
Campbell is the son of Mel and Joey Campbell of Bridge City.
He and his wife Amy have two children, Luke and Courtney.