'I Was Not Ready to Orphan My Children': S.C. Couple Thank Hero Neighbor

by Lester Holt /  / Updated 

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — A flooded South Carolina community has a new hero: a quiet neighbor who managed to get his small boat off its trailer and ferried firefighters to rescue an elderly woman, along with a pair of 5-year-old twins and their parents.

"I was not ready to orphan my children," said Kira Stokes — who was carried to safety Sunday with her husband, Luke, in Braden Stoneburner's small boat.

"We're extremely grateful to him," Stokes told NBC News.

Related: Flood-Hit South Carolina Set for More Rain

Like everyone else on this block of Burwell Street, Stoneburner was busy removing soaked belongings from his home Monday, and he declined to speak on camera. But there are numerous other people eager to tell the story of the reluctant hero.

"He just doesn't like a lot of attention," said Stoneburner's dad, Craig. "He did a great job."

It all started about 5:30 Sunday morning, when the Stokeses got a phone call from a neighbor down the street warning them that the water was rising quickly in their front yard.

They opted to stay put, following firefighters' orders. But then a small boat came up carrying firefighters, who took their 5-year-old twin son and daughter to safety.

It was Stoneburner's boat. He'd pulled it out and got it running in the middle of the night for fire and rescue crews.

The boat returned for the parents, but "we got caught into a rip current, and the boat motor would stall," Luke Stokes said.

Finally, "we got the motor cranked one more time," he said — enough to make it to a stand of trees, where the Stokeses pulled themselves out of the water. Firefighters eventually managed to drag them to safety in the boat with a rope.

IMAGE: Braden Stoneburner's boat
Braden Stoneburner hauled this boat out in the middle of the night early Sunday and helped rescue five people amid historic floods in of Columbia, South Carolina.NBC News

Incredibly, it wasn't the first rescue they'd made with Braden Stoneburner's boat. He actually first sprang into action when he heard an elderly neighbor yelling for help in the dark.

"We had called 911, but nobody was here, and she just kept screaming," Craig Stoneburner said. Braden personally ferried firefighters to her home.

"She was really almost ready to go under," Craig Stoneburner said. "We took her back and got her our and got her to safety."

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