While Tropical Depression Imelda was battering the city of Houston, Jayden Payne, a football player at Aldine High School, put his athleticism, faith, and courage to the test as he rescued a woman and her child from drowning.
Vinitta Williams was trying to get her 2-year-old daughter Ava home safely from daycare as the city became increasingly dangerous to navigate as water levels continued to rise due to Imelda.
“That’s when it started raining harder,” Williams explained. “It was flooding.”
Moments later, while driving near Aldine High School, Williams’ car was swept into a flooded drainage ditch. With Ava in the back seat, the car began to sink.
Jayden happened to be nearby with his mother, Cynthia Payne, watching the horrific scene unfold in front of them.
“The whole street was just submerged with water,” Jayden explained. “I hear my mom screaming, ‘No, no! Someone stop her! Get out of the car! Get out of the car!’ I just started seeing it sink. I was like, ‘oh my God.’”
Williams was trying to get her car doors open, but with the water rising it became nearly impossible to push the door open against the current.
“That’s when I really lost,” Williams said. “I was like, oh my God! Are we going to die in here? I grabbed my baby, and I started kicking and pulling and kicking and pulling and somehow, it opened.”
She started to swim away from the sinking car, holding her 2-year-old above her head, but the water kept pulling them both under.
“I felt the current taking me under the bridge, and I felt like I was going to die,” Williams shared.
Thankfully for Williams and her daughter, Jayden was already running full-force to help the two.
“I threw my jacket off and I threw my shirt off…and I dove in,” he said.
Jayden explained that as he got into the water, he heard William’s start to scream for someone to save her baby.
“She was like, ‘Grab my baby! Grab my baby! Grab my baby!’” he said.
“That’s when he dived in and he pulled us out,” Williams added, “and I’m thinking, ‘thank you, God.’ He is my guardian angel. He’s my hero.”
Meanwhile, Jayden’s mom was watching and hoping that they would all make it safely.
“I’m like, please just let him come back. Save them, but bring him, too. There’s no replacing him,” Cynthia Payne said.
According to KHOU11, Jayden said that he didn’t think twice about the fact that he was risking his own life, because he was too busy saving two others.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Williams said. “If he would’ve jumped in that water and pulled us out, we would not be here.”
“I feel like I did something great,” Jayden said. “I had to make sure two of God’s children didn’t die at an early age.”
Jayden’s football coach, Hank Semler, told the Chronicle that Jayden has both a great reputation on the field and in the classroom, a leader in both.
“To risk your own life to save people that you don’t know — he didn’t know that lady and her child,” coach Semler shared. “He just saw fellow people that needed help and he just immediately sprung to action.”
Later, after they reunited at KHOU11 studios, the two realized that they lived in the same apartment complex in Houston.
Houstons quarterback DeShaun Watson invites Jayden to a game
On Monday, Jayden got quite the surprise when Houston Texan’s quarterback invited him to next Sunday’s game versus the Panthers.
“Jayden – you are a real-life hero!” Watson wrote. “I’d like to invite you to be our special guest at our game this Sunday vs. the Panthers.”
“Thank you soooo much,” Jayden responded.
In an interview with Fox26, Jayden shared that he found about Watson’s invite to be his special guest when he was in the training room, getting some work done on his toe.
“Who me?” he said, “I was shocked… I was so excited, I’m still so excited.”