Flashback: That Time Eunice Was On “Rescue 911″
A few months ago, we posted a story about a Lafayette car theft and kidnapping that was featured on the hit CBS television program Rescue 911. Shortly after we published that story, St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Eddie Thibodeaux told us about another time Acadiana was featured on the William Shatner-hosted show. In fact, it was a story Thibodeaux was familiar with because it happened in his hometown.
The date: July 12, 1994. A massive rainstorm flooded parts of Acadiana, including some areas of Eunice. Thomas Lemoine and Adam Gustin went outside to play. The came upon ditch filled with water and began playing in it. That's when disaster struck.
Although a police officer, John Cormier, told the boys to get out of the ditch, Thomas and Adam continued to play in the drainage canal along US 190. The current sucked Thomas into a pipe under the water, leading to a harrowing situation.
We'll let Mr. Shatner tell the rest of the story. From the February 14, 1995, episode of Rescue 911:
According to a Eunice News article, several people stopped to help the boys. They were John McGee, Jr., off-duty police officers Ronald Papillion and Mark Edwards, Charles Tweedel, Marcus Callahan, and Joseph Soileau. Acadiana Ambulance medics Chad LeJeune and Mark Denette also played a role in rescuing Lemoine.
Eunice Police Chief Charles Manuel contacted Rescue 911's producers about the incident. The producers researched the story and then arranged to film the reenactment at the location where Lemoine nearly drowned. The segment was filmed in December 1994, only five months after the incident happened.
The incident also caught the attention of the White House. Gustin received a citation from President Bill Clinton commending him for his heroic actions. A couple of years later, Gustin and Lemoine visited Washington as part of a class field trip.
One of the men who helped the boys also received accolades from a state organization. The Louisiana Motor Transport Association named Joseph Soileau its 1995 Louisiana Driver of the Year. The organization cited Soileau's heroism in helping rescue Lemoine and his safety record as a truck driver when bestowing the honor upon him.
According to Facebook and newspaper clippings, Gustin still lives in the Eunice area. However, we were not able to find any indication as to where Lemoine is today.
Officers Cormier, Edwards, and Papillion continued in law enforcement. Papillion eventually moved to the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office and its SWAT unit under Sheriff Bobby Guidroz. Edwards remained with the Eunice Police Department. So did Cormier, who retired as a captain. Cormier died in February 2022. He was 69.
If you know the whereabouts of any of the other people involved in the rescue, let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.