Sixteen-year-old Corion Evans watched from his car as three teenage girls drove down a boat ramp into the Pascagoula River in southern Mississippi.
“I thought, ‘There is no way that they drove into that water,’ ” Evans said.
Evans said he took off running toward the river, and when he got there, he saw them in the water, shouting, “Help me!”
“I took my shirt off and I took my shoes off and I threw my phone down, and I just jumped in the water,” he said Thursday afternoon in a phone interview with The Washington Post.
Evans helped get all three girls to shore, as well as a Moss Point police officer who had responded to the scene but got pulled underwater during the rescue effort. The teen and Officer Garry Mercer have since been recognized by Mayor Billy Knight (D) with certificates of commendation.
Knight said the board of aldermen wanted Evans to know “how much we appreciate his courage and his heroism.”
“We’re always proud when our young men do the right thing because so many times our young people are not doing the right thing. This young man was very selfless when he decided to jump into the water without even thinking about it to rescue these young people,” Knight told The Post.
Evans, a rising senior at Pascagoula High School, said he and some other teens had been hanging out late Saturday night and into Sunday morning. He was preparing to go home and got into his car, which was in a parking area beneath Interstate 10, not far from the river. He said the teenage girls, who have not been publicly identified, got into their car and plugged in a home address into GPS, but the GPS seemed to predict the girls were on the highway — not under it.
Evans said the driver forgot to turn on her headlights and blindly followed the directions, which led them straight down a boat ramp into the water.
Once Evans reached them, he said he grabbed the girl who was closest to him and helped her back to shore. Then he went back to get the others, helping them climb on top of the vehicle.
During Evans’s rescue efforts, Mercer arrived on the scene. He said he quickly removed his vest, his body cam and his gun belt and started swimming toward the girls, whom he said were scared to swim.
Mercer said he was trying to help one of the girls but about halfway back to shore, she went underwater and started panicking, pulling the police officer down with her. That’s when Evans appeared to rescue them, he said.
“If he hadn’t been there helping out, who knows?” the police officer said about Evans. “Anything could have happened. I was already swallowing water.”
“I couldn’t have done it alone,” he added.
In the end, Evans helped get all three of the girls to safety, according to the authorities.
The girls are “doing well,” Moss Point Police Chief Brandon Ashley said in the statement.
Evans said he had planned to leave earlier but sat in his car for a while. In fact, his mother, Marquita Evans, said he missed his curfew. She later learned why.
“He had a good reason so I couldn’t be mad,” she told The Post.
Evans, who is a wide receiver on his high school football team, said he has been swimming since he was a preschooler. He said he wants to attend college and become a physical therapist or go into sports medicine.
Evans said he spoke to the girls after the incident and they told him how appreciative they were for his saving them.
“I’m happy everybody was safe, that everybody made it out,” he said. “I’m just glad nobody lost their life that night.”