Houston reporter spots stranded truck driver on air and helps save his life

Brandi Smith, a reporter at CBS Houston affiliate KHOU, was on the air reporting on Tropical Storm Harvey when she saw a semi-truck stranded on the roadway below her. The cab was quickly filling up with water, and the driver was still inside.

"The water here is about — it's going on 10 feet deep. Do not climb into the water!" Smith yelled to the driver. 

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Truck driver is stuck in Houston flood waters

CBS affiliate KHOU

"My first thought was just that we had to figure out a way to get him out. I couldn't walk away knowing that there was someone in that truck," Smith told CBS News.

Suddenly she spotted a rescue vehicle on the highway.

"We have a boat coming! We have a boat coming! I'm going to flag these guys down," Smith said, running after the truck. 

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Smith flags down a rescue vehicle after spotting a semi-truck driver stranded in high flood waters. 

CBS affiliate KHOU  

As the freeway off-ramp became a boat ramp, Smith tried to reassure the truck driver.

"I was terrified. I was absolutely terrified from the moment we saw him," Smith said, adding, "I had promised him that help is on the way and I wasn't, I wasn't going to break that promise."

She continued reporting while her own newsroom had begun to flood, with crews scrambling to move their cameras upstairs to broadcast from a conference room.

But as water continued pouring into the building, the decision was made to evacuate, leaving Smith and her photographer Mario Sandoval as the only people broadcasting for one of Houston's largest stations.

"Those are the kind of circumstances we're dealing with. Catastrophic, dire, life-threatening," Smith said on air. 

Smith remained on the air for almost 30 minutes by herself. Her camera was rolling as rescuers pulled the truck driver out through a window.

"I don't know if I could have lived with any other outcome, so I am so grateful that the sheriff deputies came along when they did," Smith said.

"I just thank God that you guys were right here to get me, put me back on land safe. I appreciate you," the truck driver told Smith before she asked him for a hug. 

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The truck driver and Smith hug after the precarious flood rescue.

CBS affiliate KHOU  

For Smith, it was like nothing she'd ever experienced — when a live shot may have actually helped save a life.

When the rising water knocked the KHOU newsroom off the air, they moved the entire operation to a conference room in the Federal Reserve building next door, where they continued to broadcast online using Facebook live. On Monday morning, they were back on the air and broadcasting from the local PBS station.