While most people were hunkered down as Hurricane Nate approached South Mississippi on Saturday night, Biloxi Police and Fire departments were called out to rescue a man and his daughter from a minivan surrounded by water.
Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney said the storm was coming in when the call came in to 911.
Cuong Hoang, 50, and his daughter Kim Hoang, 4, were out on the Popp’s Ferry Causeway. Their van had stalled and they couldn’t drive to safety.
Biloxi’s first responders were notified of the emergency at 9:52 p.m. Saturday and the first units arrived at 9:57, said Jeff Merrill, deputy chief of operations for the fire department.
They found the van surrounded by water and called for the the swift water rescue team, which he said arrived at 10:08 p.m.
“I was the commander over the rescue,” said Battalion Chief Stephen Stricker. Swift water rescue is a special task force assigned to the Biloxi Fire Department, he said. The unit works with Biloxi Police Department and has equipment and the training for these types of rescues.
“The Biloxi Police Department has high-water trucks,” Stricker said, and he along with two swift water technicians and two police officers rode the former military vehicle out to the van. It was quite a ways down the causeway, he said, far enough they used binoculars to see it.
He doesn’t know why the van was out there during the storm. “We just go get them,” he said.
They were on safe ground by 10:17 p.m., or 25 minutes after the call came in.
Cuong Hoang told rescuers he had made a wrong turn. He thought he was on the Popp’s Ferry Bridge, he told them, and not on the causeway to the west that leads to the Causeway Park.
He wasn’t dressed like he expected to get stuck. “He was in boxer shorts” and a white T-shirt, Stricker said.
The man spoke Vietnamese and the language barrier was an additional challenge during the rescue, said Biloxi Police Chief John Miller.
“We took them home,” he said. The incident was written up as child neglect and curfew violation, he said, but no charges have been filed.
“I think he probably learned a very valuable lesson,” Miller said.
That was the only rescue that night as Hurricane Nate hit Biloxi, he said.