Location: Conroe, Texas
Date: November 30, 1990
In the late afternoon of November 30, 1990, Kelli McWhorter and her three children were about to embark on a trip to Kelli's mother's house for the weekend. Kelli started the engine of her station wagon which was parked in front of her trailer in rural Conroe, Texas. Twenty-two-month-old Nicole was seated in the front, and three-month-old Whitney was buckled into her infant seat in the back. Brandon, Kelli's six-year-old son, was outside by the car. At the last minute, Kelli remembered something: the roast she'd promised to bring for dinner was in the refrigerator. Kelli left the car in the "park" position, the engine running, and ran inside the trailer. Brandon followed, saying he wanted to help.
As Kelli removed the roast from the refrigerator, she noticed through the kitchen window that the station wagon was rolling rapidly downhill, toward a pond twenty feet away. She dropped the roast and ran outside, but she was too late. The car nosedived into the water and began sinking at a forty-five degree angle. Panicked, Kelli jumped into the pond and swam to the car, where she could see Nicole and Whitney trapped inside. The driver's and passenger's windows were rolled up and the automatic door locks were set. "Nikki, unlock the doors! Unlock the doors!" Kelli screamed as she pounded on the front window. But Nicole just stared at her, in shock.
Meanwhile, Brandon had taken it upon himself to call 911. Dispatcher Willie Roston at Emergency Medical Services answered the call. Roston had to calm Brandon, who was so excited that he was unintelligible. "The car went down to the lake and the babies are in it!" yelled Brandon. "The car is leaking! The car is leaking!" When Roston understood what Brandon was saying, he dispatched an ambulance to the general vicinity. He couldn't send paramedics to the McWhorters' trailer because his computer terminal displayed the origin of Brandon's call only as "Highway 150."
Meanwhile, Kelli racked her brain as she treaded water, feeling helpless as she watched Nicole jump into the backseat to escape the water that was filling the front of the car. The thought of life without her girls kept flashing through her mind. Kelli swam to the rear of the station wagon, which was up in the air. The back window was open and the tailgate had never locked well in the past, so maybe she could get inside that way. Kelli managed to unlatch the tailgate, but the car was positioned at such a steep angle that she couldn't hoist herself up inside.
On the opposite side of the pond, neighbors Robin and David Brock were leaving their trailer when they heard Kelli shouting and saw her car sinking. Another neighbor, Randy Welch, was returning home from work when he was also alarmed by Kelli's screams. Brock and Welch ran to the pond and dove into the water. They swam to Kelli and told her to swim back to shore.
Brandon was still on the line with the dispatcher. Through persistent questioning, Roston finally learned from Brandon the landmarks that would identify the McWhorters' trailer. He informed the paramedics, who were en route in the general direction.
Back at the pond, Brock hosited himself onto the tailgate. He climbed into the car, grabbed Nicole, and handed her to Welch, who swam her to safety. Brock went back into the car to look for Whitney. He hadn't seen the baby when he rescued Nicole, and he prayed that she wasn't submerged, especially since the water level was now up to the underside of the dashboard. Brock found Whitney barely above water level, strapped into the infant seat. He pulled her out and had just cleared the station wagon when it disappeared underwater.
Paramedic Linda Bargsley arrived to find that the girls had escaped without injuries. Brandon was ecstatic when he found out his sisters were all right. "I didn't want my sisters to die, because if I didn't have my sisters I wouldn't have nobody to play with," he says. "The car was leaking and I was thinking that it was sinking and that would be sad."
Roston and his dispatch team also heaved a sigh of relief when they heard the good news. "Calls like this make you want to run home," Roston says, "so you can hug your children and tell them you love them." Kelli is grateful to her neighbors, for saving her daughters' lives, and to her son, for knowing what to do. "I love Brandon with all my heart."