Nursing home residents rescued from Harvey floodwaters after photo goes viral

Josh Sidorowicz
WTSP-TV, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.

TAMPA — A dramatic viral image of elderly residents trapped in waist-deep water in a Texas nursing home amid catastrophic flooding resulted in them being rescued.

Residents of La Vita Bella assisted living facility in Dickinson, Texas, sit in waist-deep water Aug. 27, 2017, waiting for help.

The photo was taken inside La Vita Bella assisted living home in Dickinson, near Houston.

The image was tweeted just before 9 a.m. ET by Tim and Kimberly McIntosh, nearly 1,000 miles away in Tampa, along with a desperate plea for help.

Kim McIntosh told WTSP-TV her mother, Trudy Lampson, owns the facility. 

More:Federal government plans years-long recovery effort in states hit by Harvey

More:Tropical Storm Harvey: What we know

More:Harvey: 'Cajun Navy' heads to Texas to aid rescues

"This morning I texted (my mother) to see if they were OK and she texted this photo back and said that the water was basically waist high and they needed help," McIntosh said by phone Sunday night.

The McIntoshes quickly determined their best hope to get help to the nursing home would be to post the photo online.

“I was afraid they were all drowning," McIntosh said. "My husband has a Twitter account so he went ahead and tweeted out the picture, thinking that someone would see it maybe nearby there and (go by) boat to get them."

The tweet took off, quickly going viral, garnering nearly 3,000 retweets.

"We were desperate, desperate to get someone there and, given we couldn’t get through to anybody, I felt nobody was listening," she said.

Some were quick to question the authenticity of the photo.

"That was heartbreaking to us," McIntosh said. “It’s horrible when you know something is true and you’re just trying to get help and people don’t believe you.”

By a little after noon, the residents were rescued.

Dickinson Office of Emergency Management coordinator David Popoff confirmed to the Galveston Daily News 18 people, and one cat, were rescued from La Vita Bella.

“We were air-lifting grandmothers and grandfathers,” Popoff told the paper.

After the rescue, Timothy McIntosh tweeted, “Thank you to the National Guard & the Galveston City Emergency crew for our rescue.”

He added, “Thanks to all the true believers that re-tweeted and got the news organizations involved. It pushed La Vita Bella to #1 on the priority list.”

Kim McIntosh said her mother had made arrangements before the storm hit to move the home's residents to nearby hotels but she was told not to evacuate and to shelter in place.

"She could’ve easily left and she was told not to," McIntosh said. "She would’ve evacuated in a minute if she had thought that they were in danger.”

Follow WTSP-TV on Twitter: @10NewsWTSP