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Two quick-thinking sanitation workers are being credited with saving a 10-year-old girl who had been kidnapped from a family member’s home.
The New Iberia Police Department said the 10-year-old disappeared from a relative’s home Sunday between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., according to a statement from authorities.
She was last seen getting into a gray four-door car being driven by an adult man, according to local station KTVE. An Amber Alert—describing both the car and the young girl—was issued by authorities later that night.
The next morning around 7 a.m. Pelican Waste & Debris employees Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine were driving along their usual route near St. Martin Parish when they noticed an unusual scene: a silver sedan matching the description in the Amber Alert parked in the middle of a field.
“Something told me … I said, 'What’s that car doing off in the field like that,'” Merrick said in a video posted to Facebook Live as police worked to secure the scene.
The pair pulled their trash truck over onto the wrong side of the highway to block the car in, as they called police.
Police were able to safely recover the girl from the vehicle a short time later.
“Man, I thank God we got this little girl,” Merrick said after the incident. “This is a blessing.”
In the video, a law enforcement officer at the scene can be heard telling Merrick and Antoine “Great job gentleman, thank you for your service.”
Merrick, who is the father of a daughter himself, said the praise caused him to tear up.
“I was just doing my job man, I was just doing my job and came across somebody who actually needed help,” he said.
The girl was taken to a local medical center, where she was evaluated, authorities said.
Authorities arrested convicted sex offender Michael Sereal, 33, at the scene for aggravated kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender, police said.
In the video, he can be heard yelling “Why are you doing this to me,” as authorities take him into custody.
Louisiana State Police said Sereal had been an acquaintance of one of the girl’s family members, local station KATC reports.
The 33-year-old had previously been convicted in 2006 of carnal knowledge of a juvenile, according to The Acadiana Advocate.
In the days since the heroic rescue, Pelican Waste & Debris has come out to publicly praise their employees.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Dion and Brandon,” Pelican CEO Roddie Matherne told Oxygen.com in a statement. “In fact, All of our Pelican Waste team have been heroically working without fail during the pandemic quietly, professionally, and consistently serving the communities where we college garbage & debris. They often respond in other ways while on the road. This was an exceptional thing that may very well have saved a little girl’s [life].”
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