Abilene father and daughter lauded for heroic weekend water rescue

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A typical Saturday might consist of some television or some yard work, but saving a life is a bit out of the ordinary. Saving two lives is even less ordinary. Still, one Abilene man found himself doing just that. His actions, and those of his daughter, were the difference between life and death. Here’s how it happened.

Vince Viola had planned to spend the afternoon watching football. His daughter had a shopping trip planned. Both plans fell through, leading them outside to test out some new fishing tackle. That’s when things took a turn.

“A little girl screamed that her brother was drowning; he was in the water,” recalled Vince. “I looked up and I saw one boy in the water.”

That was all it took. Vince ran across the bridge over Wood Lake, shedding some of his heavier clothes on the way. When he made it to the opposite bank, he took a dive into some particularly cold water. That’s when he realized things were twice as bad as he’d previously thought.

“There was two people actually in there. There was a little boy; he was under the water. I pushed him up to safety,” said Vince. “The other boy was around my neck and treaded water until I could get close enough to get them up the spillway.”

That solved two problems, but a new problem was left in their place. Vince was trapped. The steep sides of the spillway were slick at the waterline, leaving no way up. The cold water was taking its toll, too. He wasn’t able to swim to an easier exit.

“I started to get a little bit panicky,” said Vince, “because I felt the cold really starting to set in after four or five minutes. I couldn’t move my hands; was really cramping up pretty good at that point.”

Fortunately, Vince’s background as an Army medic made him aware of exactly what was happening to his body, what he needed to do to survive, and what the stakes were. At that moment, golfers were passing by. Vince’s daughter Kaitlyn brought them over, and they were able to haul him out of the water.

With everyone safe, each person started the recovery process. Getting out of wet clothes and drying in the sun was a start. Vince said he took a steam bath to bring his body back to normal. That was the end of the story, until Monday, when Vince and Kaitlyn were presented with awards for their heroism.

Reading from official certificates, Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said how the actions of both had, “saved two lives, and impacted families and our community. Job well done. So, on behalf of the Police Department, the Fire Department, the City of Abilene, and the Mayor of Abilene, we gift you with a life-saving award. We’re very proud of you.”

The youngest boy’s father, identified only as Scott, had words as well, thankful for the way the day unfolded.

“If any one of the series of events had changed, we’d have a much different day today,” said Scott. “First, if Kaitlyn’s friends had not decided not to go shopping with her, and had not cancelled her plans to be at home with Vincent. Had Vincent decided to practice casting another day, neither one of them would have been out there.”

Although Vince and Kaitlyn were the two to get an official recognition, Vince credits five other people with the save. He’s thankful for the four golfers who came to his aid, four men that he already knew personally. He’s also thankful, and trying to track down, the older boy who first jumped in. In Vince’s eyes, that boy is a hero as well.

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