Joseph Diener, 16, and Dominic Viet, 15, were exploring their hometown of Columbia, Missouri, on Friday to survey the damage after a massive rainfall flooded parts of the city.
The two, along with a few other friends, were biking when all of a sudden, they heard someone calling for help.
“We didn’t know if they were serious or not,” Joseph explained. “She said it twice before we got over there.”
The group of teens saw a woman in a bathing suit, clinging to a basketball hoop that was nearly entirely submerged in the floodwaters.
The two took “about 30 seconds” to realize they had to take action, Joseph said.
“My friend Dom was like, ‘I’ll get in if she actually needs help,’ and I was like, ‘OK, because I’m going in,’” Joseph said.
There was a small group of people gathered near the woman already, Dominic said.
“We were like, ‘We can swim, we’re trained for this,’” he told TODAY. “Then we were just like, ‘Let’s go.’ And then we just ran right in.”
The two said they had the woman grab onto their shoulders because her legs were cramping and they were able to doggy-paddle back to the shore.
“There were some currents trying to pull us down too, because — I don’t know —it’s not normal water,” Dominic said.
The two were able to make it to solid ground with the drowning victim, they said, who started throwing up water.
Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Jenkins confirmed the teens’ account to TODAY and added that the woman was expected to be OK, though he did not know her current status.
“The person had entered the water to swim, to the best of our knowledge,” Jenkins said, adding that there is no swimming access in that park. “These two young boy scouts come by and heard the distress calls….for two 15- and 16-year-olds to react that way, it was very heroic.”
Both teens are Life Scouts, which is the last level before Eagle Scout. Neither are working on any lifeguarding skills as part of their upcoming projects, but their scoutmaster, Morgan Dailey, told local NBC station KOMU that they might get badges for their honorary action.
“There’s a heavy emphasis on being prepared and especially being prepared for emergency situations,” Dailey told the outlet. “And this clearly was an emergency situation where there was a young woman that was struggling in the water.”
As for the teens’ parents, they’re just thankful the story had a happy ending.
Jeremy Diener, Joseph’s dad, said they had a talk about the dangers of floodwaters afterward but he was really proud of his son’s actions.
“Trying to save somebody is a really noble thing. But, if it causes you or somebody else harm in the process, it’s not worth it,” he explained, adding he was “proud that they would think to put somebody else above themselves right and want to and want to help them.”
Monica Viet, Dominic’s mother, told TODAY she had been calling and texting her son to warn him of another storm rolling in. She sent her husband to where they were located and when he saw the ambulance and fire truck, she said her heart sank.
“You know, my mind went to the place where he was the one who was injured,” she said. “I didn’t realize that he was out there saving somebody!”
Later, Viet said, Dominic texted her: “Mom, I just saved a woman’s life.”