Sullivan County Deputy Sheriff Justin Merrill received recognition this week for his rescue of a Goshen couple from a fast-flooding vehicle stuck in rising waters. The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office awarded Merrill with the department’s “Life Saving Award” on Monday in appreciation of his prompt and exemplary performance on the night of Thursday, July 29, when Merrill waded through rising waters to rescue Michael O’Connell and his wife Maren Ardell from a trapped vehicle. “Officer Merrill was calm, collected and, quite frankly, went above and beyond,” O’Connell told the Eagle Times. “Receiving this award was very much deserved.” On Thursday, July 29, O’Connell and Ardell were traveling home from Newport on Route 10 after visiting friends. It was night and “pitch black” outside, according to O’Connell, and the rainfall was heavy. According to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, there had been an additional six inches of rainfall that evening between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., which led to multiple areas of flash flooding, causing washouts on roads, bridges and culverts. “They described hitting ‘a wall of water’ and their car stalled,” according to a statement by Sullivan County Sheriff John Simonds. “They knew at that point that they were in trouble.” When the couple contacted 911 the water was “at mid-hubcap level” but when Merill arrived, approximately 10 to 15 minutes later, the water had reached the middle of the doors. Soon after water was passing over the vehicle hood. “They were very fortunate that Merrill arrived when he did,” Simonds told The Eagle Times. “It definitely was a treacherous ordeal.” Adding to the complication of rising flood waters and the darkness, Ardell had difficulty getting free of the vehicle, requiring Merrill and O’Connell to help pull her out. Once Ardell was free from the vehicle, Merrill, O’Connell and Arden held onto one another and “chain walked” through the water to Merrill’s patrol vehicle. Despite Merrill having initially parked his patrol car in a relatively dry area, water was entering the interior through the bottom of the doors by the time Merrill, O’Connell and Arden reached the patrol car, O’Connell said. O’Connell and Ardell credited Merrill for saving their lives that night, according to interviews that evening with Goshen Fire Chief Ryan Hall and Fire Captain Samantha Aaron. Simonds presented the award to Merrill at Monday’s meeting of the Sullivan County Commissioners. O’Connell and Ardell were in attendance, along with Merrill’s wife Elise and his three children, Owen, Sullivan and Mary. “I am extremely proud of his action that night,” Simonds said on Tuesday. “It goes to show the caliber of officers that we have in our department.” The flooding of Route 10, which lies along the Little Sugar River, was among many flooding occurrences during the last week of July. Rainfall during July 2021 broke numerous records around the state, including in Sullivan County. According to the National Weather Service, Sullivan County recorded 12.03 inches of rain in July, which is more than seven inches above the county’s average for that month.