Houston-area man who rescued driver from ship channel awarded Carnegie Medal for heroism

Cody Moore, 54, a father of five who lives in Bellaire, jumped into the Houston Ship Channel on Dec. 31, 2021, to save a man who had driven off a ferry landing and into the water. It all happened while Moore and his family and friends were waiting for a table at the nearby Monument Inn.

Lynchburg Ferry Rescue
U.S. Coast Guard
Houston-area resident Cody Moore jumped into the Houston Ship Channel on Dec. 31, 2021, to save a 63-year-old man who had driven his car off a landing for the Lynchburg Ferry.

Dinner could wait.

The man who had just driven his car into the Houston Ship Channel could not.

Cody Moore was standing outside and waiting for a table at the Monument Inn, where he and his family and some of their Bellaire-area neighbors had gone to eat seafood on the night of Dec. 31, 2021. Then they heard an unusual sound and noticed that a vehicle had just gone into the water from the landing of the nearby Lynchburg Ferry.

Karen Moore called 911 while her husband and their son, who was 11 years old at the time, hurried toward the water. Cody Moore stood at the edge of the ferry landing for about one minute, trying to communicate with the man in the car while also assessing the dangers of the situation and how they might get out of the water if Moore were to jump in.

Then he took the plunge.

"He was clearly panicking, and we made eye contact," Moore recalled. "It became kind of personal at that point. You can't just look away from a dude that's looking at you in the eye trapped in a car."

Moore ended up rescuing the 63-year-old man who had driven into the water, swimming toward his car, helping the man escape through the driver's side window and holding on to him as they temporarily floated with the assistance of a buoy. Moore eventually swam the man toward the ferry landing and, with the assistance of his wife, son and others in their dinner party – along with a makeshift rope they created by tying together their shirts – they managed to get out of the water safely.

A few months afterward, Moore received a certificate of merit from the U.S. Coast Guard's Houston-Galveston sector, which had witnessed his heroism on surveillance video. And on Monday, the 54-year-old father of five was announced as a recipient of the Carnegie Medal, which is given to Americans and Canadians who risk their lives for the sake of others.

"He entered a body of water with no feasible exit, so that is just a huge risk that he took," said Jewels Phraner, a spokesperson for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, which awards the medal. "And thankfully there were people on the landing that could then help both people out of the water, but he didn't wait to know there was help coming. What he did was truly incredible."

Moore, who works as a trader in the oil-and-gas industry, is one of 16 people from the U.S. and Canada who were announced Monday as Carnegie Medal recipients. He one of four from Texas, and six of the recipients died during their acts of heroism.

Each recipient, or their surviving relatives, will receive at least $5,500, with some receiving additional money to help with costs such as medical and funeral expenses. A total of 10,371 people have been awarded a Carnegie Medal since the Pittsburgh-based fund was created in 1904.

Moore, who said he is in "decent" physical condition but has no experience in the military or working as a lifeguard or first responder, chalked up his heroic act to being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing. He has not maintained contact with the man he rescued but said he is glad to have been able to help.

Moore also said he plans to donate his monetary award to the Coast Guard as well as the Harris County Precinct 8 Constable's Office, which were the responding authorities on the fateful night. He said he came away from the experience with a greater appreciation for first responders.

"I didn't really want to jump in the water, but I knew I had to," Moore said.

Cody Moore Monument Inn
Cody Moore
Cody Moore, front left, dined with friends and family at the Monument Inn after rescuing a man from the nearby Houston Ship Channel on Dec. 31, 2021.

The incident seemed "very much in slow motion," according to Moore, who said he felt calm in the water and not cold, even though the water temperature was 68 degrees at the time. But he remembers shaking uncontrollably in the immediate aftermath, so much so that his friend's son had to write down Moore's statement to authorities.

Moore said he was most frightened as the men were trying to get out of the water, because they had to swim amongst gears, pulleys and other heavy machinery in the ferry landing, not knowing if or when they might be activated. There also were strong currents and low visibility because it was nighttime, he said.

At one point early on during the ordeal, Moore said he thought his efforts would be futile. He and the man he saved were unable to open the driver's side door, and then the man's head submerged under water as his car continued to sink.

"I had been praying the whole time, ‘Lord, don't let me die. Don't let him die. Don't let my family see me die,'" Moore said. "Right when he goes under, in my head, I'm thinking I just watched a man drown. At that moment, that freaking window came down about 6 inches. It was unbelievable. ... I have no idea how that window came open."

They kept moving the window down, the man was able to poke his head through the opening, and Moore pulled him from the car and eventually to safety.

Then, after authorities arrived and took care of the man who had been pulled from the water, Moore and his family and friends turned their attention back to dinner at the Monument Inn, a popular seafood restaurant near the San Jacinto Monument. Without knowing what was going on outside, Moore said the staff there initially tried to cancel their reservation.

And because Moore, his friend Jason Dixon and others in their party were either wet or had donated their shirts to the rescue effort, they had to find dry clothing. So a friend who was still en route to the restaurant stopped at a convenience store and picked up the most suitable clothes they could find – hoodies with a tie dye pattern.

Once they were finally seated at a table, Moore said he scarfed down a plate of redfish topped with Pontchartrain sauce.

"They had no idea," he said of the restaurant staff. "They didn't even ask. They just thought we were weird."