Llano couple floated in fridge inside their house before water rescue

Hill Country

LLANO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A couple survived floodwaters that were filling their house by floating in a refrigerator and hoping that help would arrive soon. 

Laura and William Villella woke up during the early morning hours Tuesday to find water from a creek nearby building up inside their house. After several calls to 911, Laura finally managed to speak with a dispatcher, whose words she still can’t forget. 

“The last thing I heard was, ‘There’s no way we’re getting to that house,'” Laura said, wiping away tears. 

She and her husband swam to different rooms and climbed onto pieces of furniture sticking out of the water, which at one point got so deep that Laura could not touch the floor. William said he eventually got Laura into their fridge floating in the kitchen, while he clung to the side. 

“I was deployed to Iraq twice. I was also in a very bad car accident that I almost died from,” William said. “This was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. Water is no joke.” 

The couple said they almost gave up hope that anyone would ever find them, but then they heard a faint sound of voices coming from somewhere outside. 

“We just started screaming,” William said, “screaming, ‘We’re in here! We’re in here! Come get us!'” 

Two firefighters from Kingsland arrived in a boat and used an oar to break the kitchen window so that both Laura and William could swim out and get to them safely. 

“All I remember [the firefighter] saying was, ‘We have been skimming over the top of trees to get here,'” William said. “That’s how high the water was.”

The first place they came after their rescue Tuesday was the First Baptist Church in Llano. 

“I was never, ever so happy to see people before in my life,” William said, smiling. 

Church members are still working around the clock to feed flood victims and first responders now that their gym is no longer acting as a shelter for evacuees.

“It’s just a rotating shift all day long,” Youth Pastor Craig Barrack said. “We’ve got people in here for breakfast at 6 a.m. and then they start cooking supper at about 3:30 p.m.”

Tammy Barrack, Craig’s wife, said the church has even collected clothing and other items to give to flood victims that lost everything. 

“You cook; you clean; you pull food out of your own pantry to make sure that people are fed because that’s what Jesus commanded of us,” Tammy said. “To do anything less is just not OK. I don’t know anybody who isn’t doing something for somebody else.” 

A woman even showed up at the church while the Villellas were staying there and offered them an apartment to stay in temporarily. They’ve since moved into another apartment of their own. They plan to go back to their flooded home in the next few days to see what they can possibly salvage. 

Even though they’ve lost so much, the couple said they still feel so much gratitude for everyone who’s offered them help.  

“They’re our angels,” William said. “The members of this church and this community, they’re just like angels to us because they helped us.” 

“Our main angel,” Laura added, “was that boatman. He’s our main angel.” 

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