Deadly Floodwaters — Sea Eagle Owner Rescues 100 Stranded Neighbors

Clay Stilley and his friends rescued about 100 neighbors who were stranded by deadly flooding. "You can't see her well in the photo," said Clay, in grey t-shirt, "But the photo was taken as we rescued a 90-year old woman. She's wrapped in a blanket at the bow of the Sea Eagle."
Clay Stilley and his friends rescued about 100 neighbors who were stranded by deadly flooding. “You can’t see her well in the photo,” said Clay, in grey t-shirt, “but this was taken as we rescued a 90-year old woman from her home. We wrapped her in a blanket at the bow of the Sea Eagle.”
Flood waters reached four feet deep in the area. Homes, cars, property, belongings...everything was damaged or lost.
Flood waters reached four feet deep in the area. Homes, cars, property, belongings…everything was damaged or lost.

  Between August 10 and 17, 2016, southern Louisiana was devastated as it received almost 30 inches of rain, say top US weather scientists*. That’s nearly seven TRILLION gallons of water — enough to fill 10.4 MILLION Olympic-sized swimming pools, says CNN. Over 60,000 homes were damaged and many lives were lost.

Yet the worst tragedies always bring out the best in Americans. Here’s how one local man put his Sea Eagle 14sro to work and rescued an estimated 100 neighbors stranded by swiftly rising floodwaters.

The flood crested but the damage was already done. As the waters receded, residents began the endless task of cleaning up.
The flood crested but the damage was already done. As the waters receded, residents began the endless task of cleaning up.

“I own a Sea Eagle 14sro, a 14’ orange Sport Runabout, with a 20-HP Honda outboard motor. I keep it in the ‘basement’ of my fifth wheel trailer but when waters started rising during our recent flood, I got it out and inflated it. Friends and I started loading it up with sandbags to transport them to where we could hold back floodwater, 20 or 30 sandbags at a time.

Sandbags no use, time to rescue people

But water rose so fast that the time for sandbags was soon over and it was time to rescue people. We picked up a 90-year old woman,  carried her to the boat, put her in, and drove the boat to higher ground.

I worked until about 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning getting a handful of people to safety. I started about 6am the next morning and the water had risen much higher. The current was terrible — maybe 20 or 30 mph.

Clay ferried stranded neighbors from their flooded homes to safer, higher ground. The local Fire Chief said, "If I hadn't seen what that boat could do, I wouldn't have believed it."
Clay ferried stranded neighbors from their flooded homes to safer, higher ground. The local Fire Chief said, “If I hadn’t seen what that boat could do, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

7 passengers at a time (and 7 animals, too)

My friend Billy Ray Bankston, his son Brent, and I got as many people as we could to safety — animals, too. At one point, we had seven people and seven animals in the Sea Eagle. One family had been stuck for days without food. We rescued one man who had taken his boat out to rescue people and had capsized. We got him off a roof. 90% of the homes in our parish were flooded. Businesses were flooded four feet deep, cars were lost. I had men from the Sheriff’s Department riding with me to get to places even their Humvee couldn’t go.

Tragedy is no respecter of age. This young man was shaken by his ordeal but was safely delivered to higher ground.
Tragedy is no respecter of age. This young man was shaken by his ordeal but was safely delivered to higher ground.

“If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t believe it”

Joe Foster, Chief of the Albany Volunteer Fire Department said, ‘Water was rising so fast we didn’t have enough resources. Clay and others pitched in — Clay with his Sea Eagle. If I hadn’t seen what that boat could do, I wouldn’t have believed it.’

“I got a Sea Eagle for fishing and fun”

I work in the oil and gas industry. I live in my fifth wheel trailer at job sites for eight or nine months at a time so I take my Sea Eagle along for fishing and enjoyment in my free time. My wife and I both fish.

When I was looking at boats, I researched online and found the Sea Eagle. I thought this was the right boat for us. I didn’t want to trailer a boat so an inflatable made sense. I can deflate it, get where I’m going, inflate it, and go boating.

“Navy Seals use inflatable boats”

I chose Sea Eagle’s Sport Runabout model because there are lots of bodies of water in Louisiana we wanted to be able to get out on any sized lake. I knew this boat would be stable, and it is. I was in the Navy and I knew Navy Seals use boats like this – inflatables. I chose the 14’ model because I wanted lots of room.

We’ve gone boating in our Sea Eagle all over — way up in Canada where we caught walleye and northern pike. In a few weeks, we’ll go down the river on a fishing trip to Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. 

After the flood, Sea Eagle was kind enough to donate a 14sro to our local fire department. Thank you, Sea Eagle.”

— Clay Stilley, Sea Eagle 14sro owner, Albany LA

Now the work begins for thousands of Louisiana neighbors -- clearing out flood-ruined furniture, clothing, heirlooms...and starting over.
Now the work begins for thousands of Louisiana neighbors — clearing out flood-ruined furniture, clothing, heirlooms…and starting over.
*Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group.

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