Bill Little commentary: Colt McCoy -- Memorial Day rescue
It was, by all accounts, a perfect Memorial Day on the little lake just north of Graham in northwest Texas. The high school football coach, Brad McCoy, had spent the day fishing with his son, Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy. They had grilled at lunch, and fished until dark.
Across the lake, Ken and Patina Herrington were winding down a peaceful day that had included a picnic lunch and a plan to watch movies as night came.
Ken Herrington had just had his 60th birthday, and the Herringtons celebrated life itself. An IBM employee who worked with NASA on man's first flight to the moon, Ken had taken early retirement after suffering a brain hemorrhage. His wife had also retired, and the two had devoted the next years of their lives in voluntary causes such as Habitat for Humanity and other charities.
The Herringtons lived on one side of the lake, which is more than 300 yards wide, and the new football coach at Graham and his family had settled into the canyon on the other side of the lake.
Just before dark, as Patina was going to get movies, Ken headed down to the lake to check on a small dock that he had just finished building. It was almost 9 o'clock, and by now, the sun, which had sizzled the day, had slowly retired for the evening.
Ken hadn't been feeling well because of an infection in his foot, so the day had been quiet for the Herringtons.
Brad and Colt McCoy had been in a heated fishing contest most of the day, with Colt getting the best of it, including a five-pound bass. Dinner was waiting at the house just up from the lake.
Patina Herrington was checking out the movies when she was startled by the barking of their neighbor's dog, Annabelle. The dog was a constant companion of Ken when he went to the lake, and it almost never barked. This time, however, the dog was at her door and never stopped. Patina Herrington followed the dog, who headed for the dock.
A grand mal seizure is one of the most frightening of the activities which the brain can produce. The body goes into complete paralysis, and often is subject to violent twitches. And at 9 p.m. on Memorial Day, 2006, Ken Herrington lay on the small deck, suffering the first of what would turn out to be 12 seizures that night.
Neighbors nearby on their side of the lake were inside, relaxing at the end of the three-day weekend when Patina Herrington screamed for help. And nobody seemed to hear.
Except on the far side of Timber Ridge Lake, where the fishermen, the father and son, heard her cries.
"I looked at Colt and we could tell right away somebody was in real trouble," said Brad McCoy. "It was too far around the lake, and we didn't have a boat. We were in shorts and we looked at each other and said, "We've got to swim."
So as Patina Herrington cried for help and held her husband to keep him from shaking rigidly into the water, Brad and Colt McCoy, one with a flashlight waving, began swimming to the rescue.
"We couldn't see her," Brad said. "We could only swim to the sound. It was pitch black. About halfway there, I said to Colt, 'We've got to stay close together. It's not going to help anybody if we drown trying to save somebody.'"
Finally, the two arrived at the dock.
Patina Herrington feared that her husband had suffered another brain hemorrhage.
As the McCoys swam, another neighbor across the lake came out to water her flowers and heard Patina's screams and called 911. Brad and Colt arrived at the deck and quickly started helping Patina.
"I told her to keep talking to her husband, to keep him from fading," said Brad. "She said, 'I can, now that you're here to help.' I'm just glad he didn't need CPR, because I was out of breath from the swim."
Help was on the way, but another challenge emerged. The lake is down in a canyon. The winding, rocky path down covered 575 yards from there to the county road on which the ambulance would be traveling.
Colt McCoy had kicked off his shoes for the swim, but somebody had to climb the rocks to the road. By now, other neighbors were there to help, but none in any kind of shape to scramble up the boulders. So in the dark, with only the flashlight, Colt McCoy began climbing.
Ironically, Ken Herrington is a Texas grad, but neighbors on both sides are fans of Texas A&M.
"That's that Texas quarterback," said one. "I'm an Aggie, but I'm darn proud of that kid."
Once on the road, Colt flagged down the paramedics and led them down to the dock. The medical personnel strapped Herrington to a board, and with help from the McCoys and others, carried Ken Herrington out of the canyon. He was taken to a hospital, and is home en route to a full recovery.
By then, about 60 people had gathered, and under strict orders from the medical personnel not to swim back, some folks took Brad and Colt back to their home.
Wednesday, her husband back home after having spent time in Harris Hospital in Fort Worth, Patina Herrington e-mailed the story to the media. Prior to that, Brad and Colt hadn't shared the story.
"Without Colt's and everyone else's help, my husband could have died. I want to recognize him and everyone in Graham in some way but do not know how to do it. Could you help by doing a story?" she wrote. "My husband after a week in the hospital got to come home and is well on the road to recovery."
The Herringtons planned on watching movies Wednesday night, with the stipulation that there would be no late evening trips to the lake.
"If he goes down there again," she said. "I'm going with him."
Brad McCoy was back at work at Graham High School, and Colt had returned to Austin where he would be working out with teammates and fellow quarterback hopeful Jevan Snead on Wednesday night in preparation for the Longhorns' football season next fall.
"I remember," said Brad, "thinking during that day just how thankful I was that Colt was a part of a program like Mack Brown's where the kids had been given a chance to come home during the break between semesters. We had enjoyed a family day. I also would say that Mad Dog (strength and condition coach Jeff Madden) has those guys in some kind of shape."
As far Patina Herrington, she wants others to learn the story.
"I would like for Colt to get some recognition for the wonderful, brave and heroic act that he did. He is definitely a keeper! He and his dad saved my husband's life."