Santee man swims across lake to save neighbor's life

Brandon Lukens and Richard Rhode
Brandon Lukens and Richard Rhode

By Tim Pulliam - email

SANTEE, SC (WIS) - A Midlands man is being called a hero after saving his neighbor from drowning in Santee. The neighbor was mowing his yard near the water's edge, when he drove into a shallow creek. The mower flipped, pinning the man underneath the water.

"They talk about miracles everyday," said Richard Rhode. "I am a miracle."

Rhode counts his blessings, because two weeks ago he almost died.
Rhode was mowing his yard in Santee, when all of sudden his mower blade struck his fence by the water. He and the machine started to roll downhill. "When I saw that happening, I turned slightly to the water to get the silt from under the blade and the next thing I knew, my mower was turning upside down this bank," he said. "Turned upside down on top of me in the water."

Richard held his breath underneath the shallow water, trying to wiggle his way free with no luck. "I can't do anymore, my wife's upstairs and don't even know I'm under this water," Rhode described. "So I'd given up."

Richard was stuck underneath the lawnmower, but all hope wasn't lost. His neighbor from across the cove heard what happened, and came to the rescue.

Brandon Lukens was outside on the phone when he heard the splash. He swam about 30 yards in four feet of water to save Richard. "Once I got over there, I realized I didn't see him or anything moving so I realized he was still underneath the lawnmower," said Lukens. "If I didn't react as fast as I did, he would have been dead."

Richard's wife Linda is still emotional. "Happy tears, very happy," she said. "Because I can't be without this man. He's great. Wonderful man. Wonderful husband."

The Rhodes are calling Brandon a hero, but he disagrees. "I don't really look at it like that," said Lukens. "I was put there for a reason to help. I was there at the right time."

"I owe my life to him," said Rhode.

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