SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – An Ark-La-Tex teenage survivor of a flash flood disaster spoke for the first time about his ordeal. And it came on the very day the body of his little sister was found, making her the 20th victim.
First a little background: The rushing flood waters killed those campers early Friday (6/11/10) morning in southwest, Arkansas. It all happened in the Albert Pike Campgrounds, in the Ouachita National Forest, about 156-miles north of Shreveport.
14-year old Kyler Basinger may have returned home to Shreveport from the site of that horrible tragedy, but his heart and mind are still there. Now he holds on tight to the memory of his father Shane and two sisters, Jadyn and Kinsley who all perished in the flash flood. Jadyn was the 7-year old sister whose body was recovered on this Monday.
"We happened to be woken up like five minutes before, because our tent had a lot of water in it. And we were getting out to go run to the truck to sleep in the truck," began Kyler Basinger. Once this young man started recalling the events that unfolded next, he didn't stop until the end.
Kyler said he and the ten others in his party then quickly realized just how fast the water was rising at their camp site, along the Little Missouri River. "By the time they turned on the car and went to go back out it was already inside the car."
Basinger's father Shane, and members of the other family with them, quickly started putting kids in the back of the truck for safety. "Then we saw an RV floating by with people standing over it and it tipped over."
It only got worse from there because Basinger's truck then flipped upside down in the rushing water. "Then I was bumping through trees and underway most of the time, except a brief second that the water dipped and I come up and got some air," described Kyler.
That breath of air gave Kyler the moment he needed to gather his thoughts. "I grabbed on to a branch. It slowed me down a bit. But it broke. Then I hit a tree and just grabbed on."
But Kyler wasn't safe yet. "And I had two trees holding my leg under water and the water kept on rising and I was under water for like twenty seconds trying to free himself," added Basinger. Somehow he managed to escape before it was too late.
But he could also hear others not so lucky. "We could here screaming everywhere, 'help' and all that." All Kyler had the strength to do was hang on. He continued, "I just had my underwear on and I was in a tree. I was shaking, you know."
And the water just kept coming. "It was pinning me so hard against the tree I could like barely climb it." Two hours later, Kyler could finally climb all the way down that tall tree that saved his life. He soon joined others in helping rescue people still in peril, like a woman and small child about to be swept away.
Kyler recounted: "So we went over there and did a chain-link thing, where we held on to each other and passed the kid down to the bank." They repeated the process to save the woman next.
Freezing cold and most likely in shock, Kyler and a few others wandered around a bit before sitting down and waiting for the emergency crews to arrive at their location.
Even now, Kyler Basinger seems emotionally numb to the ordeal, one of only five of the eleven, in his group, to survive. "I don't think I've taken it all in," concluded the soon-to-be high school freshman at Captain Shreve High School.
An account has been set up for the Basinger family at Region's Bank. KSLA News 12 is told people can visit any branch and ask about the account to make a donation.