Hickman man to be recognized for saving passenger’s life

It was a harrowing road side rescue, a van was sinking down into a lake when a Hickman man stopped to help.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 11:49 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2023 at 3:46 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For father daughter duo Josh and Riane Hicks, it started as just another long, slow-moving car ride to a softball tournament.

“GPS had taken us some back way down to Wichita that we usually don’t take,” said Josh Hicks, who will be honored as the Nebraska Hero at the Nebraska-Iowa football game on Friday. “And we hit every small town and stop light and stop sign on the way down there.”

Josh now says it’s exactly the path he was meant to take because just 10 minutes away from their hotel, a work van barreled out of frame of the rear-view mirror and off the road.

So Josh slammed on the breaks, turned around and rushed to the crash.

“My first instinct was get out of the car and see if anybody needed help,” Josh said. “And [Riane] was the one who was like, ‘Should I call 911,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, that’s a really good idea.’”

A Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy was just down the road finishing a voluntary 13-hour shift.

“I want to help out whenever I can, so I decided to stay an extra four hours,” said Deputy Clinton Harris, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputy. “All the things that lined up the exact way they had to for this to be the outcome.”

Harris saw Josh and Riane, running down a steep hill and followed along. They all came upon the rocky scene: four people crawling at the water’s edge, but one, they heard from panicked voices, still in the sinking van.

“Now we get to go down and see where he’s at, and the van was not sitting in a nice position,” Josh said. “Like I said, it was upside down.”

In slip-on shoes, Josh trudged through mud to chest and shoulder deep water. Harris began breaking out the windows in a situation that grew more dire with every second.

“That vehicle could have rolled on us, and we could’ve all died,” Harris said.

Josh stabbed his arms into the flooded cabin and grabbed anything he could.

“When there’s no air in a person’s body, there’s no weight under water,” Josh said. “It’s just, you’re grabbing a hold of something, so you don’t even know you’ve grabbed onto somebody.”

Josh pulled the trapped man’s body out, and Harris and another deputy tugged him to shore where they used their bodies as a board to do CPR on until Riane flagged down the ambulance.

Back at his home outside of Hickman, Josh said he doesn’t feel like a hero. But during halftime at the Nebraska-Iowa game, he’ll be honored on the field as one.

“The way you’re brought up around here is to help people,” Josh said. “To make sure everybody’s okay and just do what needs to be done.”

Josh said he’s proud of his daughter, a senior at Norris, for showing so much composure.

All of the people in the crash recovered. And Josh, Harris and the man they rescued still keep in touch.

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