The night of April 21 was chilly in Blount County, Tennessee.
Scott Snipp, a sales and leasing consultant at Rick McGill’s Airport Toyota, was at home on sick leave from work. It was unfortunate, he said, because he had just started his job at the dealership in March and was really enjoying the work.
A decade after leaving his job selling vehicles in Lexington, Kentucky, he had found himself back in the industry – an industry he says has brought him a lot of happiness. And one he happens to be pretty good at.
“I’ve been in the top three sales every month,” he says.
‘A Good One’
Coworkers at Rick McGill’s Airport Toyota say Scott Snipp (right) is known to have his colleagues’ backs.
On that particular April night, he had just walked outside to let his dog out when he saw something strange.
A neighbor was frantically running down his gravel driveway in their rural neighborhood. It struck Snipp as particularly unusual because it was 10:30 at night.
“He yelled out that somebody had flipped their car down into a nearby creek,” he said.
Snipp didn’t wait a second to react. He put his dog back inside the house, grabbed two flashlights, threw on his shoes — new ones, he pointed out — and ran down to the creek.
What he saw when he got there was shocking. An SUV was overturned and the only part of the vehicle that was visible in the creek water were the rear tires.
Another of Snipp’s neighbors was standing on the SUV with no shoes. He warned Snipp that he lost them when he jumped into the creek and sunk about two feet into the mud.
That didn’t stop Snipp, who made the plunge — a drop he described as about five feet until you hit the water.
“What I didn’t realize was there was barbed wire in the water,” he said. “And I was in my flannel pants and a short-sleeved shirt. The water was cold, and that barbed wire got me immediately. And my feet were sunk in the mud.”
There was a moment Snipp thought he was stuck too and wouldn’t be able to help. That’s when his 20-year-old son arrived at the scene and shined a flashlight into the creek.
“There just happened to be an old root sticking out of the mud and I was able to reach it with my left hand to pull myself up,” he said.
Snipp was able to make his way to the SUV and talk with the driver, who yelled out, “I need help! I’m dying and can’t breathe.”
The driver had found a small pocket of air in the floorboard of the SUV. When Snipp asked him to unlock the door, the man said he couldn’t find it in the dark water.
Snipp used his flashlight to try and break one of the windows. When that didn’t work, he attempted to open the door to no avail.
It felt helpless. But Snipp stayed in the water, not ready to give up.
He said he was in the creek water for about 30 minutes when rescue crews arrived at the scene.
“There was only one deputy who got into the water with me,” Snipp said. “Deputy Kendyhl Rodgers stripped down into his boxers and jumped into the creek.”
A Team Effort
Scott Snipp says Deputy Kendyhl Rodgers (above) didn’t hesitate to jump into the creek water when he arrived at the scene of the crash.
A firefighter tried to toss Rodgers a tool to break the window, but it sunk into the water.
“I’ve been in there a long time at this point,” Snipp said. “I’m freezing. The tool was nowhere to be found in the water.”
So, he decided it was time for a different approach. He was going to coach the driver to help himself out of this situation.
“It’s time,” Snipp told him. “I’ll pull you out, but you have to find this lock right now.”
With Snipp talking him through it, the driver was able to unlock the SUV and the deputy and Snipp were able to pry the door open and pull him to safety on the bank.
In the end, Snipp was left with some deep gashes from the barbed wire. His clothes were tattered. His new shoes were ruined.
But a man’s life was saved.
“It really felt good,” he said. “It makes you feel good that you’re able to do something good for someone else, your fellow neighbors.”
Both Snipp and Deputy Rodgers were honored for their heroic efforts. A month after the rescue, Snipp received a Citizens Service Award from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office.
“Thank you for your willingness to step forward and put yourself in harm’s way to help save a life,” read a letter from Sheriff James Lee Berrong to Snipp. “The Citizen Service Award is given out very seldom and only in extraordinary circumstances where the individual acts in a brave and selfless manner. We are very proud of you.”
And while Snipp has been rather humble about the whole thing, he said he did bring the award to Rick McGill’s Airport Toyota, and he may have got a sale or two out of it.
But his colleagues at the dealership say they weren’t surprised by Snipp’s selfless act.
“He’s that person who always goes and gets extra food for people,” says Darrell Caudill, a fellow sales and leasing consultant. “He’ll get your car gassed up and detailed while you’re in the middle of something. He’s a good one, always has your back.”