Viral photo shows deputy resting after night of rescuing Harvey survivors from floodwaters

A photo that shows a Houston-area sheriff’s deputy collapsed with exhaustion during the chaos of Hurricane Harvey has gone viral, with people praising the lawman for his dedication.

The photo was first posted Sunday on the Texas Sheriff’s Deputies Facebook page. The poster wrote that the image, which shows the deputy sleeping while sitting on the floor, was provided to him by a friend at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

“This deputy worked 12+ hours thru the night, doing high water rescues. Worked until he couldn’t stand anymore,” the post read. “This man and hundreds more just like him are out there, saving Texans! Much respect, sir!”

CBS 7 in Odessa reported that the deputy was identified as Harris County Deputy Robert Goerlitz. In the photo, Goerlitz is slumped against a desk, his arm resting on a bag of charcoal. 

The sleeping deputy is wearing the waders he used as he rescued people from Harvey’s floodwaters overnight. 

Related story: Harvey’s aftermath: Houston perseveres through immense loss (live updates)

Goerlitz was still working hard on Tuesday, when he did a phone interview with CNN. When CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota asked how he was doing, he responded by saying he was “cold and wet.”

Goerlitz explained that he had been working around the clock before the viral photo was taken.

“I was on for 21, 22 hours right when I finally got something to eat and sat down,” Goerlitz said

Exhaustion took over as he sat, and his sergeant’s wife snapped a photo in fun. 

The deputy told CNN that he and his partner rescued several drivers trapped in their cars. They also used their five-ton high-water vehicle to get a woman having a heart attack to a hospital. 

He said those who were rescued thought they were going to die in the floodwaters. He and his partner were also surprised to see those trapped in their vehicles were still alive.

“To see the look on their faces when (we) show up, and it’s scary for us because we don’t want to find them in the worst way we could, and it’s overwhelming to finally see, it’s kind of surprising, ‘He’s alive!’” Goerlitz told Camerota. “And you see a handprint come up onto the window, and get them out of the car and get them loaded up, and they’re so thankful that we were coming down the same road.”

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As of Wednesday, the photo of the napping Goerlitz had been shared close to 700,000 times on Facebook. More than 55,000 people commented on the image, with many commending the deputy. 

“God bless him and all that are working around the clock to rescue all in harm’s way,” one woman wrote

Another woman who said she knows Goerlitz said he “truly is a hero.”

“He has always put others before himself, both personally and professionally,” the woman wrote. “I am honored to call this man a friend.”

Some commenters, reading that Goerlitz had been working “12+ hours,” questioned Goerlitz’ need for rest after “only 12 hours.”

Goerlitz’ son, J.R. Goerlitz, came to his father’s defense.

“Assigned 12 hours, worked an additional nine because people needed the help,” the younger Goerlitz wrote. “This man is my father and (he) stepped up. What have you done? If I weren’t stationed away from Texas, I would be helping alongside him.”

In another comment, he told his father to ignore the negativity. 

“Thanks, dad, for all you do,” J.R. Goerlitz wrote

Harvey, which made landfall for a third time Wednesday morning in Louisiana, has dumped more rain than any other single storm in U.S. history with nearly 52 inches falling in parts of Texas. 

As of Wednesday, 11 people were confirmed dead, including Houston police Sgt. Steve Perez, who drowned early Sunday morning as he tried to drive to work. 

Harris County, Texas, Deputy Robert Goerlitz slumps against a desk in exhaustion Aug. 27, 2017, after working for more than 20 hours to rescue people from floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston and the surrounding area. (Photo courtesy of Texas Sheriff's Deputies)

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