Officers rescue seven from rapidly rising creek

A trip to a popular swimming spot in Monroe County nearly turned tragic for seven people who wound up caught in a flash flood.

MONROE COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – A trip to a popular swimming spot in Monroe County nearly turned tragic for seven people who wound up caught in a flash flood.

But quick action by officers from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks saved the day.

May 18th promised to be a fun day at the creek for Haley Grace Jones, her best friend, and their kids. They decided to head to a popular spot at Town Creek.

“She’s been there before, I’ve been to creeks before, but never that one,” said Jones.

This is how the popular swimming spot at Town Creek normally looks and it looked the same way on that morning when Haley Grace, her friends, and their kids made their way to the other side.  What they didn’t know was heavy rains upstream would soon mean flash flooding, making it impossible to get back across.

“We went to leave then we didn’t realize the creek had risen as high as it did, the current was really bad, it was over our head and that’s when we were stuck and had to call 9 1 1,” Jones said.

But Haley Grace wasn’t familiar with the area, and couldn’t give 9 1 1 dispatchers a location.  However,  Deputy Zack Wilbanks, who was working a traffic stop, heard the call and got in touch with Haley Grace.

“He asked if we crossed over a railroad track and we did, so he knew where we were, he was the first one that got there, he tried getting in the water, but he couldn’t get to us, that’s when I knew we were in trouble,” Jones said

Deputy Wilbanks realized he would need to get his boat, to rescue everyone before time ran out.

“I run lights and sirens back to my house, hooked boat up, the first person I called was Storm Moore, Game and Fish, told him to meet me at the boat ramp,” Deputy Wilbanks said.

Seven-year-old Fisher was talking with God as the waters were rising.

“I asked Him that he would get the boat fast and we would get out safely and they both worked,” Fisher said.

All seven were rescued, and not long after, Haley Grace, who is a nurse at NMMC, realized she knew Deputy Wilbanks and had helped care for him after a tragic incident in 2020. Wilbanks was struck by a car as he worked at a safety checkpoint.  His partner, Deputy Dylan Pickle, was killed.

“After we got out, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s a full circle moment,” Jones said.

Haley Grace says she is thankful for the quick actions of Deputy Wilbanks, Officer Moore, and other first responders.  She has also learned some valuable lessons.

“We will watch the weather, not go on a day it rains, wear life jackets,” she said.

Wilbanks and Sheriff Kevin Crook also encourage people to know their location at all times and let others know where they are and what time they are expected back home.

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