Son Took Photos as He Rescued Mom From Ian

Johnny Lauder swam 45 minutes through floodwaters to save her
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 5, 2022 4:29 PM CDT
Wild Photos Show How Son Found Mom Trapped by Ian
In this photo provided by Johnny Lauder, Lauder's mother, Karen Lauder, 86, is submerged nearly to her shoulders in water that has flooded her home, in Naples, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, following Hurricane Ian.   (Johnny Lauder via AP)

In one photo, Johnny Lauder's 86-year-old mother is in her Florida home, submerged nearly to her shoulders in black murky water, staring straight at the camera, mouth open. In another, she lies just above the waterline on a table, wrapped in sheets to keep warm. In yet another, she's being pushed through the water in a wheelchair, her rescue nearly complete. The photos were taken after Hurricane Ian made landfall last Wednesday, and they tell the story of Lauder’s journey to save his mother, Karen Lauder, from the home she refused to leave, despite the family’s pleading. He sent the short videos and photos to his family, letting them know he was OK, the AP reports. "That's how I unintentionally documented the whole ordeal," he said.

Before the storm hit, Lauder said his mother—who lost a leg and requires a wheelchair—"kicked and screamed" and said she didn't want to leave her home in Naples. "We didn’t evacuate because we couldn’t leave her behind," he explained. She did not expect the level of destruction Ian would bring. Speaking from his son's home on Tuesday, Lauder said his mom's house had flooded about 6 inches deep during Hurricane Irma in 2017, so she assumed a similar outcome with Ian. Instead, Ian sent more than 3 feet of water around her home, trapping her inside. She called her son for help.

"She said the water was up to her wheelchair and hitting her belly button," Lauder said. He was sheltering at his son's house, a half mile away. Lauder, who said he has rescue diver training, dove out the window. He swam, walked, waded, and kicked through water for about 45 minutes, steering clear of sparking electric poles, to get to her house. Lauder said he heard his mother screaming as he approached. "It was a sense of terror and relief at the same time," he said.

He put her on a table and bundled her in dry sheets from a high shelf. He worried about the sores around her body—open wounds that were dangerously susceptible to infection in the bacteria-ridden floodwater. They waited three hours for the water to subside then called for his 20-year-old son to join them and help push grandma to safety. Around 1am, about 11 hours after Lauder’s mother called him for help, Lauder returned to his older son’s house with his mother and younger son in tow. Lauder said his mom was later taken to a hospital, because she had some infections. "But they were treated, and she's warm. She’s in a soft comfy bed. She’s good," he added. (Read more Hurricane Ian stories.)

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