San Antonio hometown hero hits roadblock after saving lives

SAN ANTONIO - On August 28th, the city of Houston was four feet under water. Thousands of residents were trapped in their homes and those who could escape, did.

On that day San Antonio resident, James Thomas headed east on I-10 on a mission; to save lives.

"You've got so many people displaced, you know, women,children," Thomas said. "Just the sheer panic and devastation was crazy."

On route to Houston, Thomas got a call there was a couple trapped in their attic. Two hours later, he literally waded into their home in chest deep water and took them to safety by boat.

"I got to their house, and they were in a two story house and water was coming in," Thomas said.

This good Samaritan was risking his life to save others, but conditions were so dire, many could not escape death.

"It's a horrible situation because not only that, you see the death and destruction and disparity and the sadness in people," Thomas said.

By dusk, the water was rising too quickly and rescuers were being told to get out while they still could.

"My last event was I probably had 22-23 people in and on literally on my truck, on the hood, on the roof, in the bed," Thomas said.

He barreled through, getting nearly two dozen people to safety, but the damage was done to his truck.

Physically and emotionally exhausted, Thomas headed back to San Antonio, but was less than 30 miles outside of Houston when he pulled over and his truck died in a parking lot off I-10.

"The next morning I contacted Allstate Insurance and explained to them what happened and of course by this time they were already overwhelmed with what was going on," Thomas said.

His truck sat in the roadside parking lot for two weeks, during which time several calls were made in an attempt to locate the truck.

"Called the insurance company and I said, 'Listen, the vehicle is still there,'" Thomas explained. "Here's the correct phone number that I had given you, not once, but twice and we need to get that vehicle out of there."

According to Thomas, an entire month passed before Allstate confirmed locating the truck, but by then looters had removed the toolbox and along with it, close to 3,000 dollars in tools and equipment. The truck was declared a total loss, for which Thomas said he was fairly reimbursed close to $15,000 dollars.

Allstate did not reimburse him for the tools because Thomas had explained that he sometimes used them for odd jobs to make money on the side. Allstate responded, explaining they would have covered the cost of the tools if they had been under a business policy.

Thomas maintains he has been a policy holder in good standing for many years, also that he did everything he could to help the insurance company locate the truck and that if they had retrieved the truck in a timely manner, they most likely would not have been stolen.

"I drove there during the hurricane to try to help out and I suffered some loss," Thomas said.

News 4 reached out to Allstate about the claim.

In a statement they wrote, "While we have already paid Mr. Thomas' damages under his insurance policy, we continue to work with him to find a resolution for the claim. We recognize Mr. Thomas' service to Texas communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey."

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