Albany native lives through flood and explosion in Nashville - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany native lives through flood and explosion in Nashville

By  Stephanie Springer  - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –It's a terrifying scenario, being trapped during a flood or a fire, but Albany resident Bill Heldenberg experienced both at the same time and amazingly he's alive to tell the story.

He was in Nashville for a job interview but ended up in the middle of that horrific flood that took over the city back in May.

If that wasn't bad enough, the house he was staying in exploded in flames.

A man on a jet ski saved his life and thanks to him, he was able to celebrate one of his most meaningful Thanksgivings yet.

This Thanksgiving, Bill Heldenberg has a lot to be thankful for like his family, his friends, and most importantly his life. The Albany native was in Nashville for a job interview, when it started raining and it didn't stop. "It rained for two days solid," he said.

Heldenberg was staying at a friends house, and together they watched the water rise. "It came up 50 feet in 48 hours," he said.

But they were told, they didn't need to evacuate, so they moved all their items to the second floor. Throughout the chaos, he made sure to keep his mom in Albany, updated through face book posts. "I kept telling him you probably need to go and he kept saying there is nowhere to go mom," said his mom, Marty Heldenberg.

Heldenberg says once officials opened the gates to the dam, water came gushing into his friend's garage. "It caused a gas heater in the garage to come off the wall, and that in conjunction with the water hitting a power outlet caused an explosion which blew the garage door off," he said.

He put the fire out on his own, since the fire department couldn't get to the home, and not long after he saw a man riding by the house on a jet ski. "He got off the jet ski and looked in the garage and said we've got to go now," he said.

Heldenberg and his friend Leslie hopped on the Jet skis, both with dogs in their hands. "That jet ski was straight up in the air," he said.

Moments later, Heldenberg experienced a life changing moment. "20 seconds after we pulled off, we could feel the heat of the explosion it literally blew out hair up because of the force of the impact," he said.

The house exploded a second time this time destroying everything inside and near the two story home. "He got us out of there and he saved our lives," he said.

Heldenberg says thanks to the man on the jet ski, he was able to live another day. "If we would have been there 30 seconds longer that second explosion would have killed us," he said.

With a greater sense of community, and appreciation for his family.

He says he sees his jet ski hero Bill Crousser, once a month. Since this life changing experience, he's learned to reach out to others more by doing charity work and refinishing furniture for flood victims. He plans to head back to Nashville soon.

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