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Family Survives Harrowing Journey Through Dam's Spillway

A beautiful spring afternoon on the lake turned into a nightmare when a family's boat drifted too close to a power dam. The powerful current pulled the boat under—and took the family with it. Read Transcript


ROBBIE GRINER: When the call come from Dougherty County

9-1-1 that particular day, you know, I

just knew that we would actually be doing a search and recovery

instead of a search and rescue.

KELLIE MERRITT: The weather for the previous three days

had been nothing but rain, so we just thought,

oh it's gorgeous outside.

And we'll jump in our boat and go down Lake Chehaw

and see all of the beautiful nature that's here in our area.

NARRATOR: Kellie Merritt and her family

were enjoying a spring afternoon on the lake side of the Georgia

Power Dam.

They didn't realize that the open gates of the dam

were creating a dangerous undertow.

KELLIE MERRITT: The water was very calm on top.

Our boat was being pulled without us knowing

that it was being pulled.

NARRATOR: The closer they got to the dam, the greater

the undertow, which now began sweeping

the boat toward the concrete wall near the spillway.

It was just sucking the boat faster and faster.

We had lost control of the boat.

The motor did not seem to matter anymore.

The boat just smashed into the concrete wall

and just dragged down the side of it.

I prayed to God.

And it was a horrifying feeling, like frozen panic.

All of a sudden my son decided to jump out of the boat.

And he was swimming as hard as he could.

But I watched him get sucked underneath the boat.

And then I put my arms around my daughter who was sitting right

in front of me.

NARRATOR: As the boat was sucked through the wall,

the water forced her daughter, Mizay, from her arms.

KELLIE MERRITT: There are in her words

to describe the feeling of her being ripped away

from my arms it was very much like I was already dead

NARRATOR: Kellie was sure she would never

see her family again

KELLIE MERRITT: The force of this water

was so strong I felt concrete and slime

and I dropped for what felt like an eternity I reached up,

and I could feel the carpet on the bottom of the boat.

And then behind me, I could feel the concrete.

I was pinned there.

And it was a horrifying feeling.

NARRATOR: Kellie began to accept the fact that she may die.

KELLIE MERRITT: I was having a conversation

with God at that point.

And I was telling him, in essence, thank you

for all that I had had.

I knew in my heart that I wanted more.

But I didn't want more if my children weren't

going to be with me, if my husband wasn't

going to be with me.

I said, Jesus, I need you to walk on water right now.

I felt it literally like I don't need an ambulance.

I don't need a helicopter.

I don't need a life flight.

I need a miracle worker.

I need Jesus.

NARRATOR: Just as Kellie could hold her breath no longer,

the boat rolled over freeing her.

KELLIE MERRITT: I then, was pulled towards the surface.

NARRATOR: Kellie began swimming against the swift current

trying to get to shore.

KELLIE MERRITT: Then I saw my son's head and just

a second or more after I saw the back of my husband's head.

It was life.

It was hope.

KELLIE MERRITT'S SON: Whenever I went over,

I didn't know where the rest of my family was.

And then I had like my dad grab hold of the back at me.

And at that point, I felt like, almost like it gave me

a hope to keep trying to swim and keep trying to get up.

NARRATOR: But there was still no sign of Mizay.

KELLIE MERRITT: I was just screaming,

where is my daughter.

Basically, my husband and my son started running down

the bank of the river.

They were hollering back, she's not here.

I just laid in the sand on the side of the river.

And I was just screaming, I need my child.

I thought at that moment that we'd lost her.

And then I heard someone yell, you know, we found her.

We have her.

NARRATOR: Once torn from her mother,

Mizay had dropped down the wall also

and found herself alone in the river on the other side.

KELLIE MERRITT: Suddenly a man walked up

to where I was lying on the ground.

And he said, ma'am, I think we have your daughter.

And he had on a green t-shirt.

It said John 3:16.

I started following him.

All of a sudden, she was just there in the path.

I couldn't see even a scratch on her.

Indescribable.

It is.

It's indescribable.

KELLIE MERRITT'S HUSBAND: At that moment,

that's when I realized that we had experienced a miracle.

And we made it.

We survived.

I felt like another person was holding on to me.

But there was no one around me when I came up.

And I knew that it had to be God, because there

was no one else around.

You know it was nothing short of God's mercy and four

miracles performed that day for this entire family.

NARRATOR: The Merritt family drove home

with no serious injuries.

And while they never saw the man in the John 3:16 t-shirt again,

they are grateful for his part in God's protection that day.

Almost felt like he was an angel.

But he had the biggest prettiest smile.

And that smile just, you know, came with a sense of peace.

You wouldn't have thought that he

would have been the one to give you reassurance

that everything's OK.

But he did.

KELLIE MERRITT: About a year later we were sitting in church

and our pastor led us to read Isaiah 43:2.

And it said, "When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you and the rivers will not overflow you."

And in that moment, I knew that God

had given our family a Bible verse that was just for us.

It was ours.

Jesus had truly been with us.

He was truly walking on water for us in those moments.

He was with us.

Right now, I believe we are four living miracles.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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