‘Shine A Light’ helps couple trapped in Las Vegas flood control tunnel

Shine A Light estimates that about 1,500 people live in about 600 miles of tunnels.
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 7:40 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) -The non-profit group Shine A Light offers help to those who want to escape life in flood control tunnels around the valley.

Shine A Light estimates that about 1,500 people live in about 600 miles of tunnels. The group just helped a couple in more ways than one, when the homeless man and woman found themselves trapped in a flooded tunnel sometime on Friday afternoon.

Shine A Light suspected the couple might have been swept away in a tunnel near the Rio. They were checking the tunnel on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday afternoon the couple walked out of the flooded tunnel and Shine A Light staffers just happened to be there to help them. They called 911 and helped first responders carry the injured man to safety.

Bryon Johnson and William Peterson, both with Shine A Light, helped the couple on the scene.

“Thank God they’re alive,” said Johnson.

“It was an eye-opener for me personally. I’m just glad we were here to help them out,” said Peterson.

Shine A Light Outreach Manager Robert Banghart, who was homeless and lived in the tunnels himself, was also on the scene when the couple walked out of the tunnel after at least 28 hours of being trapped. Shine A Light says they may have been in there longer.

“They had a mattress on top of a bunch of crates. The crates allow the water to run through. They were sleeping. At first, they thought they were going to be okay. Then something hits their mattress, they wake up, they realize it’s too late, now they’re floating down,” said Banghart.

Banghart says the couple was sleeping underground near Caesars Palace. When the water hit, he says they floated on a mattress and ended up near the LINQ. That’s where they stayed for several hours.

“They got off the mattress, they had two cats. So, they grabbed their cats, the gentleman grabbed his wife, obviously, and she was not very strong. So, he had to hold her and walk up as far as he could and finally found a spot where he could grab something and hold on. They just sat tight,” said Banghart.

Banghart says the woman was holding the cats while the man was holding her with one arm and an object with his other arm.

When the water receded, Banghart says the couple made their way back up the tunnel where they entered. He says the group saw them, came to help and called 911.

Shine A Light helps people leave the tunnels with immediate substance abuse treatment and later with housing and a job. Bangart says the man has been homeless for at least 10 years. He says the man and woman both accepted Shine A Light’s offer of help after they got out of the hospital. Banghart says the couple’s cats are being fostered.

Banghart says while Metro Police and other community groups do a good job of warning people in tunnels when rain is coming, he says leaders need to do more to help alert people that tunnels may flood.

Banghart says people shouldn’t focus on the fact that homeless people shouldn’t be in the tunnels in the first place. He says the public should understand that homeless people are human beings who should be supported.