Woman and son saved in accident

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A young mother and her 10 year-old son were saved from drowning through the efforts of two Picayune Police officers and a Pearl River County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Mindy Lauer, 33, and her 10 year-old son Beau Baker were traveling on Interstate 59 back to Metairie, La., during the heavy rains Monday that dropped more than 10 inches of rain in Picayune area. They were returning from Hattiesburg where they had purchased a Yorkshire puppy for Baker’s birthday when at about 9 p.m. they encountered a portion of the interstate that had been covered by flood water. The vehicle hit the large water puddle, hydroplaned and veered off the interstate. As the vehicle left the road, it flipped upside down, landing in the median, which was full of storm water, where the top of the vehicle and much of the rest of it submerged.

Picayune Police Patrolman Devan Williams saw the vehicle leave the road and land upside down in the water as he was on his way to assist another officer working with another submerged vehicle.

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Lauer knew that she would have only a small chance to escape after the vehicle came to a rest, so she rolled the window down and unbuckled both her and her son’s seat belts.

“I was just so disoriented under the water. … I didn’t know where anything was,” Lauer said.

After calling in for assistance, Williams dove into the water, pulled Baker from the vehicle and carried him to dry land. Williams then asked Baker how many other people were in the vehicle. Baker told Williams that his mother was still in the car. At about that time Patrolman 1st Class Michael Petree and Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Penton arrived on scene to assist Williams and the three men began their effort to rescue her.

“That’s when I went and swam in the car looking around for her,” Petree said.

“Anytime an officer goes into a vehicle upside down submerged in water, he’s risking it all,” said Deputy Chief David Ervin.

After several attempts by all three law officers, Petree finally found Lauer’s leg and pulled her from the car.

Lauer said that after the vehicle stopped she stayed in the car to try to find her son, unaware that Williams had already pulled him from the submerged vehicle. When Petree found her leg, she said she let him pull her from the car.

The two were taken to Picayune’s Fire Station One, which was also flooded, Lauer said.

The only casualty was the Yorkshire puppy. However, by Tuesday Lauer was able to locate another Yorkshire puppy, which she was holding during her visit to the Picayune Police Department to thank them for saving her and her son.

Both Lauer and her son sustained minor injuries in the accident and are doing fine. Baker even had a chance to thank the officers for their heroics in a cell phone conversation with them.

“For that much to happen and for us to walk away with barely a touch is a miracle,” Lauer said.

“I would like to praise the courage and heroism of these officers involved in saving your and your son’s life,” said Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke during her visit.

Luke also commended the deputy and the Picayune Fire Department, which came to the scene to assist Williams and Petree. An award for their efforts in the accident will be presented to the officers at the Nov. 6, Picayune city council meeting.