Even as his own life hung in the balance, one brave soul reached out to aid others during the devastating flash flooding of an underpass in Cheongju, South Korea. A truck driver — who happened to be crossing the tunnel during the unfortunate mishap — was able to save not only his own life but also that of three others.
44-year-old truck driver Yoo Byung Jo was driving his 14-ton truck through the Gungpyeong 2 Underpass in Cheongju as usual on his way to work. Suddenly, a torrent of water flooded the underpass within seconds. As he tried to escape the tunnel while the water was rushing in, the bus driving in front of him came to a stop.
Talking to a CJB reporter, Yoo shared that he tried to hit the bus from behind, hoping to push it so they could escape the flooded lane together.
I initially tried to escape together by pushing from behind, but it [the bus] wouldn’t budge. In that state, my car’s engine had turned off…
— Yoo Byung Jo
As the water level continued to rise, Yoo says he managed to break the window of his truck and climb up on top of the roof. The truck driver recalls that it was at this time that he rescued the first survivor. A young woman had been swept out of the bus by the rushing water and was desperately holding onto the side mirror of his truck. Upon noticing this, he immediately reached for her hand to help her on top of the truck as well.
There was a lady hanging next to me. I held her hand and pulled her up onto my cargo truck.
— Yoo Byung Jo
After helping the young woman, Yoo confessed to hearing more cries for help around him. He shared that he kept looking around his truck for anyone in need of help. Soon he spotted a man floating near the back of his truck and helped him up as well, right before rescuing another man who was also almost completely submerged in water.
The two men were floating and kept asking me to save them… Only their faces were visible above the water.
— Yoo Byung Jo
Despite his small stature, Yoo showed extraordinary strength as he helped the two men up on his truck. The four survivors then spent the rest of their time desperately holding to the guardrail until rescuers came and helped them escape the flooded underpass.
Yoo’s actions did not go unnoticed by the family members of the survivors as well as the public. The parents of the young woman in her 20s that Yoo saved met with the truck driver today and thanked him for his courage.
[My daughter] said, ‘I don’t have the strength, so let go of my hand,’ but you held on until the end and lifted her up to a higher place. You must have been exhausted too… Thank you so much for not giving up and rescuing her.
— Parent of the young woman talking to Yoo
Yoo, the young woman, and the two other men he saved were among the nine individuals rescued from the tragic underpass incident. Sadly, the incident has led to multiple casualties.
As of late Monday, South Korean fire authorities recovered the body of one more person presumed to be one of the victims of the flooding. Once confirmed, this will bring the total death toll from the tragedy to 14 — marking the end of the search for the 12 people who were reported missing in the tunnel deluge