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Motorist's call for help brings change in Garland

Four months ago, after Wylie resident Ben Floyd drowned when his car was swept up in flood waters in Garland, his wife Diana was determined that his death would have meaning.

She lobbied the city to install the permanent flood gates at the Brand Road location where he died. Her efforts have paid off.

Next month, the city of Garland will install those flood gates. Permanent flood gates will also be going up at six other locations throughout the city. The city is spending about $100,000 on the project.

Floyd’s wife is thankful to Garland city officials for taking action so quickly.

“It’s sad that it had to come to this, but at least it won’t happen again,” said Diana Floyd, now a single mother to their five-year-old son Preston.

Garland city spokeswoman Dorothy White said the city is installing the gates in places where there are creeks and no street curbs to help hold back rushing water in flash flood situations.

In those locations, gates are being installed on both ends so that the roadway can be completely closed to traffic. White said there will be plenty of space for motorist to be able to turn around safely. A police officer, firefighter or streets employee will be able to unlock the gates to close them.

“Water can come up so fast,” White said. “That’s what Ben Floyd’s situation illustrated is how quickly these things can become dangerous… I would refer to them as perhaps even his legacy.”

On the morning of November 27, Floyd left his Wylie home earlier than usual to drive to his job at Target, where he worked as a manager.

It had been raining heavily the entire night. There had been water rescues throughout North Texas.

Floyd took his normal route to work, driving down Brand Road. It wasn’t known as a spot that typically flooded.

City officials believe that a combination of last year’s extraordinary rains and new development contributed to the flooding on Brand Road and in areas that were not previously thought to be flood prone.

On that day, the creek spilled over onto the roadway. It rushed across it like a river in the pre-dawn hours. Barricades were set up to warn motorists, but those had washed away by the time Ben Floyd drove into the water.

In a call to 911, he explained the flooded roadway caught him by surprise. He didn’t see it until it was too late.

“He’s Ben,” says his wife. “He’s happy-go-lucky at first, making jokes about calling in to Target.”

At first, Floyd doesn’t sound overly upset. He jokes that he’s going to be late to work. He tells the dispatcher that he wants to get out of the car, but she cautions him to be careful because that could put him in even more danger of being swept away.

As minutes pass, his car quickly fills with water and the situation becomes desperate.

He tries and fails to open the car doors. He climbs in the back seat because it’s sitting a little higher than the front. The dispatcher repeatedly reassures him that rescuers are coming as fast as they can.

“How can I get out? It’s getting real high real quick,” Floyd says. “If I don’t get out, I’m going to die … it’s up to my chest in the back now.”

Toward the end of the 911 call, Floyd appears to be trying to break out through a window.

“My car’s almost full,” he tells the dispatcher.

“They’re coming as far as they can go. You do whatever you need to keep yourself safe,” the dispatcher responds.

“You tell me,” he says. “It’s really filling now.”

Those are Ben Floyd’s final audible words on the 11-minute 911 call before he drowns inside his own car.

“I don’t really know that any death is better than another, but you know the thought of gasping for air,” Diana Floyd said. “It’s horrible.”

She had left for work that morning traveling a similar route. But she wouldn’t know what happened to Ben until hours later, when the police came to her workplace.

“I traveled down Brand Road numerous times, and I would have never thought to tell him not to go that route,” Diana Floyd said. “You know you get warnings all the time, but you don’t think it’s anywhere near you.”

She said she listened to the 911 call because she had to know what happened in those final moments of Ben’s life. She also upset that some people were saying he purposely drove through the barricades.

“When those people were saying, ‘Oh, he ran through those barricades and he caused it,’ I had to know,” she said. “I was bawling, but I needed to know.”

Diana Floyd also hopes that a “life hammer” will become standard in vehicles. The emergency device can help someone who is trapped to cut through seat belts or shatter a window.

“People get in these situations all the time,” she said. “You should be able to get out of your car.”

Floyd said she’s been overwhelmed by the support of friends, family, and even strangers who had contact with Ben at Target. A GoFundMe account raised about $52,000 within days after Ben’s death.

The couple attended rival high schools and met in community college. “He was just so kind,” she said. “He was just charming.”

Ben Floyd worked two full-time jobs — one as a manager at Target and another dispatching for an alarm company. When he wasn’t working, Ben spent every spare moment he could with their son, Preston.

“The two of them just had an amazing relationship,” Diana said.  “Ben would not put him in day care just so Preston would get to be with him on his days off.”

Floyd’s death has been particularly tough on their son.

“We have good days and we have bad days,” Diana said. “At any moment, something could jog your memory and then you start crying and you get upset. Every day, Preston cries and asks for Ben, and tells me how much he misses him.”

One week after Ben died, days after his funeral, Diana received bittersweet news. She found out she was pregnant.  They had been trying to have another child for months.

She’s having a boy.

“A baby Ben,” she laughs. “Another one. He’d be so ecstatic. He was like bouncing off the walls when I found out I was pregnant with Preston. He was like, ‘I’ve got to paint. I’ve got to get furniture.’”

Come August, Diana Floyd will have two living reminders of Ben, the husband and father who died too soon.

(© 2016 WFAA)

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