Like he has done nearly every day for the past five years, Shane Kelly parked his car at 3 o’clock in the morning at The Lima News and waited for the bundle of newspapers he would deliver to his customers on Lima’s north side.
At least there was something different to watch this night, he thought to himself, as he stared down the hill at Elida Road. It was quickly turning into a lake from all the water that was collecting there. With each minute that went by, fewer cars tried to navigate through the water.
About that same time, Steven Bergeron was getting off work from the newspaper’s distribution area. He was surprised to see all the water and was anxious to get home where his wife, Krystal, and their 2-week-old infant son, Axel, awaited him. Bergeron had been walking an hour to and from work since beginning his job three months ago. On this night, however, he rode in on a new bicycle.
When he saw the water, he knew he had a tough road home.
“I got to the old BP station and decided to cross Elida Road,” Bergeron said. “The water was up to my knees. I decided to go back and as I was turning around the current grabbed my bike, which hooked the chain to my wallet. I took a deep breath. I knew I was going down.”
The force of the water bounced Bergeron across Elida Road and carried him to the area between Lowe’s and the Allan Knott car dealership. Unable to swim, Bergeron was bobbing up and down in 10 to 12 feet of water. Fortunately for him, Kelly was still across the street in The Lima News parking lot, as the press was running a few minutes late.
“The lights from the dealership and Lowe’s lit up the area, but at first I thought I was looking at some trash. Then I saw his head spitting up water,” Kelly said.
In an instant, he was risking his own life to save Bergeron.
“I wasn’t worried because when I was a kid my grandma (Theresa Lewis) insisted I take swimming lessons at the old Y,” Kelly said.
Still, he never took a life-saving class.
“I’ve seen the techniques done on TV in the movies,” Kelly said.
Bergeron lost his wallet, cellphone and new bike in the incident, but says that wasn’t the worst of it.
“I swallowed a ton of bugs. That was disgusting.”
Kelly’s fiancée, Tasha Stimmel, says he’s a hero, but he’ll have no part of it.
“I’m just a guy who knows how to swim who was at the right place at the right time.”
ROSES AND THORNS: It’s a special flood edition from the rose garden.
Rose: To Leslie Stechschulte, a bookkeeper at St. Michael Catholic Church in Kalida. She shared with The Lima News and its readers photographs of the Kalida flooding she took from the top of the church tower.
Rose: The village of Ottawa escapes major flooding.
Rose: To the tremendous job done by emergency crews. The Lima Police Department evacuated 70 people from S&P Apartments on Knollwood Drive after discovering chest deep water running through the complex. The Shawnee and Lima Fire Departments evacuate 30 to 50 people.
Thorn: 7.87 inches of rain fell in the weeklong period from June 12 to Friday.
Thorn: The after-the-flood mosquitoes.
Thorn: Tuesday of “Flood Week.” The most rain — 3.68 inches — fell from 5 p.m. Monday to 5 p.m. Tuesday; Allen County ran out of “Road Closed” and “High Water” signs; Interstate 75 was closed in Bluffton and Auglaize County; the Allen County United Way building flooded for the first time in 50 years,
PARTING SHOT: If we didn’t have floods, blizzards, hot spells, droughts and other weather events, nine out of 10 people couldn’t start a conversation.