The New Jersey National Guardsmen had been sent to the town of Manville on Sunday to evacuate residents from the rising floodwaters left as Hurricane Irene swept up the East Coast. What they did not plan on was becoming the unfortunate stars of a viral video sweeping across the Internet.
In the video, two National Guard trucks drive ever deeper into the chocolate floodwaters until the trucks are nearly submerged and the seven people inside are forced to crawl out the windows and cling to the top of the vehicles. An onlooker with a camera proceeds to heckle the guardsmen.
“Are you guys that stupid?”
“Why would you take a guy that can’t swim?”
“You guys are stupid.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Patrick Daugherty, a spokesman for the New Jersey National Guard, said it was an ambitious effort that took an unexpected turn.
"In many cases, soldiers, firemen, policemen, they overcome the impossible," he said. "Sometimes, they enter the darkest places that people would never enter. Those soldiers were there to search for and assist residents of New Jersey who needed help. ... Unfortunately, things didn't work out right."
The trucks are designed to drive through about three feet of water, but shortly after entering the water the first truck's engine stopped working, he said. Even though the engine and electrical system had gone out, the truck continued to move because it was on a downward slope, making the drivers in the second truck think it was safe to cross.
"When the first vehicle entered the water, they believed they could overcome the obstacle. The depth was deceptive and the water was murky," Daugherty said. "Once they realized that the first vehicle was immobile and that they had been overcome by the water, it was too late to retreat, they had committed themselves too far.”
No one was injured and the National Guard is looking into the mechanical failures that occurred when the trucks drove into the water, he said.