Bravery comes at unexpected time; man leaps into water to rescue victim
It was a cold, rainy night on Jan. 24 when a 21-year-old man parked his vehicle on top of Crystal Lake Road, headlights off and engine revving. About 9 p.m., the young man made a decision that would affect more people than he could have known at that moment.
The speed was unknown, the reasons are still today unknown, and unknown to him at that moment was that an angel of mercy was about to bestow upon what he believed would be the last moments of life. He pushed down the accelerator, raced down hill, turned the wheel and ramped the vehicle into Crystal Lake.
As his four-door Kia began to sink into oblivion, he held onto the steering wheel as the cold lake water rushed inside. But this night was not to be his last. Not when across the roadway there was another young man, determined to help anyone out at anytime, even if it put his own life in danger.
Steven Moore is a 33-year-old father of a three-year-old boy named Alex and a loving husband to Merriah, a Michigan transplant. When he isn't working in the engineering and operations department at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, he spends time working on his dream home. Moore's life revolves around his family, from chasing his blonde, curly-hair-baby-boy around the home, to ensuring his wife has everything she needs before taking off on another airplane.
On the night of an interview with this reporter from The Saline Courier, Moore explains that his wife is on a business trip to New York, and that she has been around the world as a successful graphic designer for Dillard's Corporate Office. Steven Moore, though, prefers a more humble life — their home is right where it always will be, at the border of the Saline/Pulaski county line, just across the road from Crystal Lake.
If you pass him on the street or in a hallway of UAMS, you might not realize that he is much more than a humble human being. Though he will more than likely deny it, pull back his button shirt and you might find a Superman logo underneath, at least in the proverbial sense.
It was on Jan. 24, about 9 p.m. that Moore would become a hero to someone, and possibly someone reading this story at this moment. He tells the reporter that the only reason he has decided to share his story is so that someone can find meaning for life. His hope is that someone teetering on the edge of life and death finds inspiration to keep moving forward; that they choose to find that internal strength to keep living.
"Most of the time, I am never here. I am always working late or I am usually in the shower around that time, but I happened to be sitting here in the chair that night watching TV," Moore said. "I usually don't ever even sit down and watch TV. I am usually always doing something. This was an odd day, that's what threw my mind."
He added, "It was a rainy, chilly day. It was one of those days you thought a thunderstorm was coming. And as I was sitting there, in nothing but my boxers, I heard a loud boom. It sounded like lightening struck right in front of my window."
Moore got up, peered outside from his front door and saw in the distance a vehicle had crashed into the lake. Without hesitation, he ran to his room, threw on pants, a t-shirt and water shoes.
He jumped off the front porch, grabbed a flashlight from his truck, but the battery was dead. He quickly grabbed the battery off his power drill, stuck it on the large flashlight and headed toward the shore of Crystal Lake.
"The car was about 30 yards out into the water and I could barely see a head in there," Moore said. "I was afraid it was going to be a family (in the car) with kids in there. But I saw a young guy in there just hanging onto the steering wheel and he wasn't trying to get out or nothing. He was just sitting there in a daze."
Though he admits that sometimes the moment is hazy, as he also admits that since that night "I try not to think of that day," Moore has a moment of clarity. As he saw the car sinking, he threw down the flashlight, and jumped head first into the lake. Moore said that his greatest fear was that there were children in the vehicle.
"I kept thinking 'Oh my gosh! Oh my Gosh!'" he said. "That would have just really got me if there were kids in there. But it really didn't matter who was in there, I was going to do whatever it took to get people out."
Moore said as he swam toward the vehicle in the frigid water "that took my breath away" there was no question in his mind that he would "have dove down and tried to open up the car." But as he swam, suddenly a head popped up out of the water.
"He got out somehow," Moore said. "Somehow he had second thoughts, I guess when the cold water hit him and all. He came up and tried to get some breaths, but he couldn't swim at all.
As Steven Moore inched closer, he said the young man "went right back under the water." Then his head came up again for air, but it was only for a second as the man's head went under the water, again.
"I made it out there to him and I could barely see his hand, but I grabbed it and pulled him," Moore said. "I hooked around him and swam back to the bank with him. I was asking the whole time for him to help me out, because it was hard on me. I was just shaking it was so cold, but I kept saying 'Just help me out the best you can if you can even hear me.' He was just so out of it. He didn't move at all. I think he was just too cold and in shock."
Moore said when he finally got the man to the bank, the man "was just limp, but I drug him up as far as I could to the road and he was just shaking. He went into shock."
Quickly, Moore yelled to his wife — who was standing on the family's front porch with a telephone talking to 911 operators — to grab blankets and to help him drag the man up to the pavement. He then got on top of the young man in an attempt to warm the freezing, limp body.
"He looked at me and you could barely hear him, but he said 'I tried to kill myself.' That was the first words out of his mouth," Moore said. "I asked him, 'Why, why? You're so young.' Then all I heard him say was 'I should have stayed in the car.'"
It was those words that Moore said the young man kept repeating in a low, near whispering voice. But as the two laid together on the cold, rainy night together, Moore also repeated words to him.
"When he told me that he was trying to kill himself, I said 'Buddy, not when I'm around.' I said 'you picked the wrong place and the wrong day to do it here.' Those were the exact the words out of my mouth," Moore said.
After Merriah Moore handed her husband blankets, the two then wrapped the 21-year-old man in shock in numerous blankets. Steven Moore noticed headlights. A car had stopped a few feet down the road.
"I grabbed the flashlight trying to wave them down to us, because I needed help, but they just stayed there in the car," he said. "They wouldn't come down there, but they probably didn't know what was going on. Maybe they were scared?"
Moore added, "Finally, what felt like about five minutes later, a man and woman got out and started walking down towards me. When they finally figured out what was going on, the man went back to his vehicle to get more blankets and the woman came over and rubbed the (young man's) legs while I was on top of him."
Moore said it "it felt like forever" for emergency crews to get to the scene. And as they laid there in wait, the young man began choking. Moore turned the man on his side and "once he spit all that water up he started breathing a little bit better.
"Then he just laid there in a daze and he couldn't say a word. I actually thought he might just pass away right then," Moore said.
It was 10:31 p.m. when deputies, Bryant firefighters and the Saline Memorial Ambulance Service arrived. Moore said as emergency crews took over the scene tending to the young man, he stayed around for a while to answer any questions. He said he was freezing cold, but he wasn't concerned about his own health at that moment, though he said his wife was "very worried about me."
"I was fine. I mean I was shaking, I had the chills, but I was just concerned about the young man," Moore said. "Man, that's the first time I have seen something like that out here. I stayed out there for a while and my wife brought me a sweatshirt and all."
According to a report from the Saline County Sheriff's Office, the 21-year-old man, with scrapes on his neck and left elbow, told deputies later at Saline Memorial Hospital that he drove his vehicle into Crystal Lake as a suicide attempt. He was depressed because his wife left him, the report said.
That was the extent of the young man's words in the report, except that there was no other person in the vehicle.
Moore said that Bryant firefighters and Saline Memorial Hospital Ambulance emergency crews also showed up to the scene
The young man was transported to a local hospital for observation and a dive team from Newcomb Towing attempted to find the vehicle in Crystal Lake, but was unsuccessful on Jan. 24.
Moore said the next day the vehicle was finally pulled out, and to much relief, there wasn't anyone else in the vehicle. He also said divers found the vehicle upside down and oddly enough, the also discovered a Jeep in the water that was registered back in 1991.
Life after saving a life
Moore said that after everyone left, he went inside, took a warm shower and put on warm clothes. But "I just couldn't get rid of the chills." Despite his best efforts to get to sleep that night, he also couldn't get rid of the thoughts of what occurred that evening.
"Like my wife said, it had to be God's doing, because most of the time, I'm not here," Moore said. "If I am here, I am usually in the back bedroom or something, and I might not have heard the crash, I don't know. I am just glad that (the young man) wasn't trying to kick and fight me. I mean if I didn't jump in right then, he would would have been way under the water, because the car went all the way under the water pretty fast."
He added, "I might have slept about an hour or so that night. I kept seeing the whole thing replay in my head. I kept asking myself, 'Why did he pick this lake?' I heard that he doesn't know anyone out here."
But Moore said he also believes that he was put in that living room chair that evening for a reason. He was also glad that his son "didn't hear the sirens or anything. But that was good, because I would hate to see him out there asking 'What's Da-da doing?'"
"It changed our lives a lot," Moore said. "It makes you realize just how life is so precious. I mean it did me for sure. I almost watched someone die right in front of me. Someone that is still so young, not someone that is old and ill, but someone that can still be alive and kicking."
He added, "Just watching someone drive off into the water and almost die, I see it in my head all the time when I'm driving now, especially when I'm coming home and I see the lake. I can still picture it all. I would like to get it out of my head, and my wife's (mind) too, because it bothers her as well. She had to watch me out there and being afraid I was going to drown with him. I guess this is something that will stay with us forever, but at least it turned out positive, that's what I think about it."
Moore said on the night of the incident, a deputy told him that the young man was going "to be OK." But since that hour he saved a young man's life, Moore still wonders how that young man is doing today.
"I thought about calling (the sheriff's office) and finding out if the guy is doing OK now, but I'll leave that up to him," he said. "I don't want to bother him and all. I mean, he might not want anyone to bother him, I don't know. Hopefully I changed his life and all. He's got a second chance (at life). From doing all that, I am hoping that he is going on with his life. I mean he's still so young. I hope he will continue to stay alive."
Moore added, "When something like that happens, your adrenaline is pumping the whole time. I didn't even think about not jumping in the water. I was just thinking 'I got to get this guy out of here.' A neighbor later told me that this guy had parked with lights off at the top of the hill, which is about 350 yards from (where the vehicle ramped into the lake). He must have been (driving) pretty fast to make it out that far in that lake. He just turned it and flew out there."
Moore said the last words he heard from the man he pulled to the shore "I should have stayed in the car" continues to echo through his head.
"When I dove (in the lake) I wasn't thinking it was someone wanting to kill himself," he said. "I was just thinking 'I've got to save this guy.' If I talked to him today, I would tell him that there is still a lot to life and there is still so much to look forward to. At his young age, life is just now starting. There's always a second chance at everything. If you mess up on something, you can always just try again to get it right."
Moore added, "I would ask him though 'why did you pick here, why this lake on this road?' But I guess God just said, 'Well, (Steven Moore) is here. God knows I am crazy enough to go out there and jump into the lake."
Crazy enough to be called a hero; just don't tell Steven Moore that.
"I've heard people call me that, but I blow it off. You know that's kind of like your bragging or something. I mean I would do that for anybody, it doesn't matter who you are, I am going to help out anyone," he said. "I've always been friends with any kind of person. I'm just an easy going guy. I don't judge anyone."
Moore added, "I think God just put me out here that night for a reason. But I don't ever want to see that happen again, that's for sure! But my hope is that this story changes someone's life. I mean there is a meaning for life. There is so much to cherish. I know I love (life), I love every bit of it that there is. I've made my share of mistakes in life too, but you just got to keep going. Everything happens for a reason and it does get better."