VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Aug. 23, 2019 – What started out as a routine day on the job for three Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) employees ended up as anything but routine. These VNG team members not only made some necessary repairs on equipment in an apartment basement in Norfolk, but more importantly, potentially saved a life.
“It certainly was an interesting situation,” said Doug Williams, operations mechanic for VNG. “In my 27 years with the company, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We were blessed to have been able to save someone’s life.”
Williams, along with fellow operation mechanics Jason Suits and D’Aaron Brown, helped save the life of an elderly woman who lived in the apartment complex and had fallen in her kitchen three days before the crew arrived to make repairs. She had not eaten or had anything to drink in the days after her fall.
“We go to jobs in older buildings not knowing what we are going to find or see,” said Suits, who had been called to assist with the job. “D’Aaron told us he was hearing things coming from somewhere in the complex while in the basement. We really didn’t know what to think.”
Brown had been called to the apartment to fix some equipment. Williams and Suits were dispatched to assist the younger mechanic. When they arrived, he told them about the faint, muffled noises he was hearing and didn’t know if it was real or someone playing a joke.
“I didn’t know if the building was haunted or if someone was playing a joke with some type of recording device to try to scare us away,” said Brown. “And I didn’t want Doug and Jason to think I was crazy.”
Brown took the trio to the area where he was hearing the noise but no one else could hear it. They continued their work in the basement, hearing muffled sounds that appeared to be someone asking for help off and on for nearly an hour.
“It sounded like a small child, saying, ‘help, help, help,’ over and over,” said Williams. “We didn’t know where it was coming from but it sounded far away.”
The team listened for a few minutes and decided to go outside and see if they could hear anything. When they couldn’t, they decided to knock on the first-floor apartment door where they thought the sounds were coming from. With no answer, they went back into the basement with their tools and the noises started again.
“We really didn’t know what to think,” said Williams. “We didn’t know if someone was hurt or being held against their will, so we decided the best thing was to call the police to have them check out the situation.”
Once officers from the Norfolk Police department arrived, they showed them where they thought the “help” sounds were coming from on the first floor. They knocked on the door of the apartment where they thought the noise was coming from, but with all the traffic and window air conditioning units running, they couldn’t hear anything.
As the police continued to knock, the calls for “help” that the team heard from the basement turned into, “I’m in the kitchen,” over and over.
“We brought the officers into the basement so they could hear the pleas for help and as soon as the police heard it, they radioed for assistance,” explained Williams. “They went to the front door where the sounds were coming from and kicked it in.”
Inside, they found a woman sprawled across the kitchen floor where she had been for nearly three days and rushed her to the hospital.
“The female officer said that if we had not heard her crying out for help she would have most likely died by the next day on her kitchen floor,” said Williams.
All three are in agreement about being in the right place at the right time.
“It was a blessing that we were working in the basement that day,” said Suits. “We were blessed to be able to save a life that day.”
About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to nearly 300,000 customers in southeast Virginia. Virginia Natural Gas has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers and is consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates. In 2018, Virginia Natural Gas was named Local Distribution Company of the Year by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for the third consecutive year. For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.2 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states and approximately 700,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
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