NEW ORLEANS – The Good Samaritans who rescued hundreds, maybe thousands of people during the Great Flood of 2016, are not happy after a state lawmaker announced that he wants government regulations on future actions by the citizen heroes.
Some of those Good Samaritans, a loosely-organized group called the 'Cajun Navy,' are being interviewed by media around the country, but that attention is nowhere near the pushback lawmakers are discussing when it comes to possibly breaking the law in the future if they save lives again.
It didn't matter if it was during the day or night. People with boats took it upon themselves to save strangers, hundreds upon hundreds of them, even when their own property was flooding.
The Facebook community dubbed them the 'Cajun Navy.'
"For the most part, these people are not going to wait for assistance. They're doers," said Cajun Navy member Dustin Clouatre of St. Amant.
He got in his pleasure skiff and with others, cleared out entire neighborhoods under water.
"At one time in my boat, I had a guy I dropped off at a Buddhist temple. I had a black guy, and I had a Mexican guy. And when we dropped them all off, everybody hugged, high-fived, loved on each other and sent them on their way," remembers Clouatre.
He and members of the 'Cajun Navy' are speaking out against talk of government regulation.
Republican State Senator Jonathan Perry of the Vermillion, Lafayette area, is working on legislation that could require training, certificates and a permit fee to allow these Good Samaritans to get past law enforcement into devastated areas. He said some were turned away.
“At the end of the day, there are going to be two things that are going to be the hurdle when you approach it from the state’s standpoint,” said Sen. Perry in a radio interview. “Liability is going to be number one for them. They don’t want the liability of someone going out to rescue someone and then not being able to find them (the rescuers) and, secondly, there’s a cost.”
Members of the Cajun Navy don’t understand the regulations.
"How can you regulate people helping people? That doesn't make sense to me," said Clouatre.
Political blog The Hayride is speaking out against any regulation.
"And we'll never know how many people got rescued, right? Because there were no bureaucrats with clipboards marking down how many. They just went and did it," said publisher Scott McKay. "The fact that John Perry is a Republican, right? It's like 'Hey, you ran on small government. Now you want to regulate the Cajun Navy.' What are you doing?"
Senator Perry did not return phone calls for a comment.
Members of the Cajun Navy said they know the flooded areas better than the official rescuers who came in from out of town. They said they did things officials would not have been allowed to do to save lives.
Some we talked to are not opposed to taking a rescue safety course but said it would be better through the private sector.
Listen to Senator Perry's comments on the KPEL radio show: