Keith Poche just wanted to give back – he didn’t expect an award, but from the sounds of it, he certainly deserved one.
“His voluntary act of initiating and navigating successful rescues with Houston Police Department demonstrated a high level of compassion as well as unusual courage and heroism,” read the Humanitarian Service Award he received from the HPD early this year.
After the end of a disappointing 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series season, Poche said he was available and realized a need for help after Hurricane Harvey inundated the entire Houston region with days of heavy rain. So he left his home in Pike Road, Ala., and met up with a friend in Lake Charles, La., before completing a 10-hour trek to Kingwood, Texas, just north of Houston.
“My family has been through that back home in Louisiana years ago, so I knew what the people were going through,” said Poche, who hails from Natchitoches. “My season had just ended – I had a terrible run up north – I got home and said, ‘Hey, let’s go try to do what I can.’”
Through radio reports and an app he found, he learned where he could help. He reported at the flood’s edge in Kingwood early in the morning of August 29.
“I was pretty much the first one there. There was some police officers standing around, and they couldn’t do anything – they had no boats,” said Poche, who immediately launched his aluminum boat and went out with officer Wesley Jones. “We pretty much went to work right away and worked all day.”
The pair got into some hairy situations, Poche reported, as flood waters were moving swiftly in areas of the neighborhoods around Lake Houston. They worked mostly to find residents who needed help and transfered them to safety.
“You got to understand where you’re at,” he said. “They had strong current. It was high and moving, so you really had to play the current and understand how to maneuver the boat.”