Former firefighter dies after rescuing others from torrential waters

Rescuers say the former firefighter helped save 24 people before losing his own life in the rushing storm waters.  On Monday, Shelby County reached out to give his family closure.

They say people were hanging from trees Saturday, screaming for help as the violent storm sent floodwaters gushing through Riverbend Park in Hardy.

Steve Richardson, known to friends as Jackie, was there on a weekend getaway with his family.

On Monday, Captain Bobby New and other Trumann firefighters Richardson used to work with, went to Hardy to try to find him.

"We just know that he was supposed to be on a tree and the water came up and he couldn't get out," Trumann said.  "My hopes were he'd be hanging in because he was rugged, and if there's a way, he'd be one of the guys that you know would make it," he added.

A fellow vacationer happened to be a Shelby County rescuer.  He asked for search dogs to help find Richardson.  Vickie Roye and Patty Wood responded.

"And at that time we devised a search strategy.  There were two boats and a land search," Roye said.

Their search dogs tracked down the 55-year-old in less than an hour.

"I'm very proud of our team and very proud of our canines in all the work that we do.  At the same time, you're very sorry that you couldn't bring him back alive," Wood said.

Family and friends now have closure and memories to hold onto.

"He was a good man, he was honest and treated everybody fair and he'd do anything in the world for anybody,"  said Capt. New.

The fire department is planning a special dedication to remember the man many would call a hero.  One other person died in the park.

Richardson was also a Vietnam vet, a former Poinsett County sheriff's deputy and a former Mark Tree Police officer.  Many knew him as Santa in the Trumann Christmas Parade.