91ºF

Family's tragedy before Harvey leads to rescue efforts during storm

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas – The world watched as Abe Minor livestreamed his view of what Harvey meant to Friendswood.

Minor recorded roughly a dozen clips, each showing streets with waist-deep water, as he, friends, and family, manned a boat to rescue neighbors.

“This is not an inlet. This is a street in Friendswood,” Minor remarked during one video, which showed what appeared to be a fleet of small boats in a lake.

Before Harvey, Minor had experienced flooding – though nothing like what happened the morning of Aug. 27, 2017, once a swollen Clear Creek overflowed, sending water rushing into streets and homes.

PHOTOS: Family helps out during Hurricane Harvey

“No one knew how bad this was going to be, especially where we live,” Minor said, reflecting on his expectations before Harvey hit.

It became clear quickly Harvey’s toll on Friendswood would be worse than residents had initially thought. Minor, who lives in Sugar Land, happened to be visiting relatives with his wife and children, when flooding left them stuck.

Turns out, good thing it did.

“If you mapped it all out, it would be miles and miles of just helping people, carrying people, putting their animals in boats,” Minor said.

Minor was not alone. His wife and oldest daughter assisted, too. Rounding out the rescue crew were family friends – and Minor’s nephew, Riley Mathews, 12.

VIDEO: Neighbors helping during Hurricane Harvey

“I said, 'I’m going to go, too. I’m going to go help,'” Riley said. He jumped in without hesitation, helping to pull his neighbors to safety.

“No doubts, no hesitations?” asked KPRC2’s Brandon Walker.

“No,” Riley said. “[It’s because] I grew up on the water. I grew up with my dad on the creek. Up and down, up and down, driving boats.”

The creek, for Riley, felt like home. He knew it, and figured that knowledge would help his family as they helped others. However, that familiarity proved to hurt as much as it helped.

Riley’s rescue missions in the water, along Clear Creek, marked the first time he got in a boat since his father died. Patrick Mathews, 47, drowned in May 2016. Riley was with his dad, on Clear Creek, when his dad jumped in for a swim. Patrick Mathews was not wearing a life vest.

READ: Police confirm identity of missing boater found in Clear Creek

“He was just going for a swim. I was driving [the boat], so, I have a lot of experiences on the water,” Riley said.

Abe spoke of Patrick as a selfless man, who would have braved Harvey’s wrath, to rescue others.

“Me and [Patrick] were best buds, so, me and Riley are best buds. Be a good role model,” Minor said. “What better role model can you be, than to show him to be selfless, especially when they’re so many people in need.”

Minor said Patrick’s presence was felt throughout Harvey. Even the boat they used to rescue neighbors had Patrick’s touch, he said.

Minor isn’t alone in that conviction.

“I do think it was my husband, because he drowned in that creek,” said Deanna Mathews, Patrick’s wife and Riley’s mother.

Mathews said she asked a neighbor to borrow the boat, which needed to be repaired before being placed in water. She asked her father to repair it. He did. Riley even rigged an old motor to help power the boat against the current, skills his dad taught him.

“My dad, he was a mechanic. Me and my dad, we always found old boats and fixed them up,” Riley said.

Riley doesn’t consider himself a hero. Neither does Abe. Yet their efforts likely saved lives. Again, it’s what both say Patrick would have done.

“He’d probably be happy that I was helping people. He’d probably be with me,” Riley said.