WASHINGTON — The man who helped lead a human chain that rescued a woman whose car was being swept away by raging floodwaters in Ellicott City on Saturday night said he thinks he did what anyone would’ve done.
“I didn’t think too much about it,” said Jason Barnes, who owns a Main Street toy store that was ravaged during the flood, in an interview with NBC Washington. “I just saw someone in trouble … You gotta do the decent thing and just give ’em a hand.”
Two stranded motorists were killed in the weekend flood.
Editor’s note: The video below contains graphic language.
On Monday, Barnes reunited with the woman he helped save, 29-year-old Jamie Knight, who said she’s “grateful” for Barnes’ quick thinking.
“It makes me want to go back home and stand with everybody and help rebuild the town,” Knight told WUSA 9, which filmed the reunion. “Some of my favorite places are just destroyed. But the spirit of the people’s really amazing.”
Barnes, a father of three, became the owner of the toy store just two months ago, according to a GoFundMe page set up to raise money to to cover damage to his store and his car, which was mangled in the flood. The page, which was seeking $20,000 has raised nearly $23,000 as of Tuesday morning.
Barnes is one of several Main Street business owners recovering from the flood. Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said Monday the full cost of repairs would likely run into the millions of dollars.
In interviews with local media, Barnes deflected attention from his actions, pointing out that a group of good Samaritans played a part in the rescue.
“There were four other people there were helping with everything,” he told NBC Washington. “I was just the bottom link on a very strong chain.”
But fellow bystanders and even a U.S. senator are hailing Barnes as a hero.
David Dempster, who owns an Ellicott City art gallery, filmed the dramatic rescue, according to a report by WUSA 9. Dempster’s video shows Barnes attempting to wade into the rushing water to reach Knight’s car before losing his footing and almost being swept away. Barnes is then seen organizing bystanders into the human chain and eventually pulling Knight from the passenger side window of her car.
“He could’ve died,” Dempster told WUSA 9. “This guy is a hero.”
At a news conference Monday, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., also praised Barnes’ “incredible, brave act,” adding “My breath was taken away.”