A wife is calling her husband a hero after he drowned while saving her.
The Oklahoma City couple was at Flint Creek in Delaware County Sunday when they fell into the creek while walking across a low-water dam. Carrie Thomas hopes her husband's story will keep others from doing the same thing.
Carrie said she and her husband came to Flint Creek to celebrate her birthday, Sunday. She said her husband lost his life saving hers.
With orders on the ground and a prayer for protection, Siloam Springs' swift water rescue team moved into Flint Creek for a somber mission – the recovery of the body of 42-year-old Gary Thomas.
Sunday was Carrie's birthday and Turner Falls, where the couple normally goes, was closed because of high water. That's why the two made the trip to Flint Creek.
Carrie said the two were walking across the low-water dam to get to a gravel beach below.
As the couple tried to get around a root ball, Scenic River Commission Administrator Ed Fite said the water took control.
“That's where the swiftest and deepest water was and they ended up losing their footing and the victim's wife ended up going over the edge of the dam and he went over with her, trying to help her,” he said.
Carrie was able to pull herself to safety. She said she saw her husband turn in the water several times, but never saw him again.
“I think he was trying to take care of his wife,” Fite said.
He said the water didn't push Gary out into the creek; instead it sucked him back toward the dam.
Fite said the water was moving almost ten times faster Sunday than it was Monday.
Rescue teams from more than a dozen agencies searched for Gary from an anchored boat until 11:30 that night.
“What they did today, they couldn't have done yesterday,” said Fite.
By Monday, the creek was much calmer and teams, still anchored to dry land, could step out into the water for the search.
With his family watching from the shore, rescuers recovered Gary's body in the area where his wife saw him take his last breath.
Carrie and Gary's sister said he was a fun-loving Christian man who would have tried to save anyone, not just his wife.