Mission Road flood rescuer ‘overwhelmed’ by community response

Don Austin is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he's received after rescuing three motorists from floodwaters on Mission Road.
Don Austin is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he’s received after rescuing three motorists from floodwaters on Mission Road.

It didn’t take long for people to show their appreciation for Don Austin, the man who thought of his neighbors first last Friday when he waded into flooded Mission Road to rescue three stranded motorists.

While Austin was outside helping others, nature snuck in behind him and flooded his home at 68th and Mission, soaking his basement and garage and ruining $6,000 worth of camera gear.

Austin’s sense of duty to help others, honed by his military service in Iraq, prompted Patrick Mallahan III of Prairie Village to launch his first GoFundMe campaign Wednesday to help cover the loss.

By this morning, more than $3,000 had been pledged in less than 24 hours, Austin’s story had been shared on Facebook more than 85 times and the subject of all this was stunned by the outpouring of support.

“I’ve never been on this side of it,” Austin said. “I will formalize some kind of thank you. I’m kind of overwhelmed right now.”

And later on, he did, posting this message on the GoFundMe page:

“I am literally speechless from the overwhelming generosity and kindness everyone has showered us with through this event.

“I challenge myself constantly to find truth in humanity in a world of constantly evolving realities and this is the proof of that.

“So thank you to each and every one for the reciprocated belief that there is indeed goodness around us.”

Among those contributing to the GoFundMe drive was Sarah Jurcyk of Fairway.

She was the frightened driver of an Audi caught in the flood who Austin pulled through the sunroof and carried to safety.

“I have been trying to figure out who was my guardian angel and now I know,” Jurcyk wrote. “So happy to find you. Your calm demeanor is what kept me calm.”

Many others posted congratulatory notes on Facebook.

Martin Gray of Topeka knew Austin in the Army.

“I served with Don and I’m not the least surprised by his action and demeanor in this matter,” he wrote. “Proud to know you Don.”

And Jeff Mantel recalled similar flooding 40 years ago hitting Mission Road.

“My father Ken Mantel did the same thing in the flood of 1977 when we lived one block over from Don Austin’s house,” he wrote. “Both of them vets and both of them heroes. Way to go Don!”

Mallahan is happy his decision to launch the GoFundMe campaign for Austin has paid off.

“I’m the kind of guy who when you see someone in distress, you help, and that’s absolutely what he did in that situation,” Mallahan said.

“Unfortunately for him, in doing that he lost important property to him. This is the first time I’ve created one and I felt it was a good reason to start.”