A Murrells Inlet man was presented a lifesaving award Thursday for his heroism in saving the lives of two women after their vehicle plunged into the Waccamaw River.
Georgetown County Sheriff Lane Cribb awarded D.J. Nance the S.C. Sheriff’s Association Lifesaving Award, according to a news release.
“It’s not something Sheriff Cribb takes lightly,” said Carter Weaver, Georgetown County Assistant Sheriff. “His selfless act saved two lives.”
Haley Morris, 24, and Kate Henry, 23, were going home from a late-night gym workout March 1 when they were forced to detour onto Wachesaw Road, the release says.
The women were unfamiliar with the road and turned the vehicle toward the Waccamaw River.
Fog made it hard to see the road, and Morris didn’t realize she had driven onto the Wacca Wache Marina boat ramp until her Jeep Commander slipped into the river. She tried stopping the vehicle by pulling the emergency break, but her efforts failed.
As the Jeep sank into the river, the women couldn’t open any windows or doors, and they realized they were trapped.
Nance luckily was fishing nearby, and dove into the water to come to their rescue, according to the release.
After getting the women to unlock the car doors, he managed to pull Morris out of the Jeep. He promised to come back to get Henry or “die trying,” the release states.
Nance kept his promise, and pulled both women through the water until they were able to reach a dock.
“There are no words,” Morris said. “We thank him every day.”
Sandy Morris, Haley’s mother, went to the marina to bring the women home, according to the release.
“It was a dark, dark night,” she said. “Heavy fog. The marina was under construction and there were no lights on the restaurant or the road. I couldn’t see anything but the reflector of a deputy sheriff’s car. The girls were crying, freezing to death. The deputy told me to take them home and get them warm.”
Kate’s mother, Jean Henry, said when she learned about the accident, it was the worst phone call of her life, the release says.
“She said she couldn’t breathe. She was underwater,” Mrs. Henry said. “I spoke with D.J. He’s an amazing individual. I can’t thank him enough.”
Since the incident, both women said they’ve re-evaluated their lives, according to the release.
They say D.J., his wife, and children “are like family to them.” They have dinner together occasionally, and Haley said they would like to take the family to Disney World someday, the release states.
Michaela Broyles, 843-626-0281, @MichaelaBroyles