Fraternal twin sisters Judy and Gina Caillouet don’t want anyone to call them heroes. But during a summer rainstorm last Friday, the two Caillouet sisters risked their lives when they interlocked arms and slipped into the deadly waters along Airline Highway to save a stranger’s life.
“We didn’t do this for recognition,” Gina said. “We just couldn’t picture ourselves going to sleep at night knowing we saw a man fighting for his life in the canal – stranded in his vehicle like that – without trying to do something to help him.”
The sisters were driving in separate cars after running errands when they witnessed an accident along the dangerous stretch of Airline Highway – near the canal side coming off I-310.
“We saw a vehicle with a person inside submerged in the water,” Judy said. “I won’t ever forget how that poor man was kicking and flailing his arms, legs and feet everywhere trying to get out.”
Judy said as she drove closer to the terrifying scene, she began praying and talking to God.
“Oh God, just let him be able to break the window please,” Judy said she prayed. “My prayers were answered and he did.”
Judy was shocked at how quickly the vehicle went under the water after the man, Warren Williams, got out. By that time, the sisters had already made the decision to go into the water to try to save him.
Although Williams was able to break through the window with a golf club he happened to have in his vehicle, the elderly man didn’t know how to swim. Gina says she remembers him coming out of the window feet first.
“We pulled over onto the side of the road near the bank,” Gina said. “We saw a few men out there, who looked like they were either on their way to work or coming from work, standing on the side of the embankment near us watching, waiting and trying to figure out what to do. But they seemed a bit hesitant about getting in the water.”
Gina said she did notice one of the men swimming back to the bank, but unfortunately he didn’t have Williams with him.
“That’s when my sister and I interlocked arms,” Gina said. “We looked at each other and Judy said ‘let’s do it.’”
The brave sisters then formed a human chain and stretched into the water.
“When he grabbed onto my arm, he was holding on for dear life,” Gina said. “He pulled me under the water a few times trying to fight his way to the top, but that was okay. He had struggled and used a lot of his strength.
“I imagined that he was getting tired and he needed to come up for some air. I had my eyes closed the whole time so I couldn’t see anything.”
Gina said that what she remembers most is the grip Williams had on her arm.
“It was so tight,” she said. “Judy had my other arm trying to keep me up above the surface. It was like I was being pulled from both sides.”
Gina and Judy won’t ever forget the feeling of getting Williams safely out of the canal.
“As soon as we got him to the bank, he just kept thanking us,” Gina said. “What I remember most about Mr. Williams after we got him out was that he paused and said ‘let me pray,’ and then he thanked God.”
Gina says when he calmed down and regained his composure, Williams asked “Who got me out?”
“My sister and I did,” Gina told him.
It was later discovered that the three, who shared a life altering experience on the canal bank that day, have a lot of things in common. Judy and Williams are both St. Charles Parish workers. Judy works for the parish’s Planning and Zoning Department and Williams works for the Waterworks Department.
Her sister Gina works for St. Charles Parish Public Schools as a bus driver. And even more surprising is the fact that Williams has a twin brother too.
Williams calls both ladies his angels. The three have now formed an unusual bond that they’ll never forget.
“He calls us everyday,” Gina said. “I just thank God that we were able to help him and we were at the right place at the right time.”
The Parish Council plans to present both sisters with a proclamation from the parish on August 4 for their act of bravery.
“These ladies are to be commended for such a selfless and brave act of heroism,” Parish President V. J. St. Pierre said. “They saw what needed to be done and had no reservations about doing it. The parish should be proud to have Ms. Caillouet as an employee and her sister as a citizen.”