Man Who Saved Five Teens in 1977 Has Road Named After Him, Says Helping Is ‘In My DNA’

November 4, 2020 Updated: November 4, 2020

Life has come full circle for a retired lead manager of the sign crew for the South Carolina Department of Transport. Four decades after he saved five teens from drowning, a sign will be erected at a busy intersection in his name to recognize his heroic action.

Ken Moore, 76, who installed signs for years for the SCDOT was honored at a ceremony in Columbia on Sept. 17 after a public request to the DOT to name the busy Camp Road and Riverland Drive intersection was made. The bill was officially backed by Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston.

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Ken Moore receiving his resolution at the SCDOT Commission Meeting on Sept. 17, 2020. (Courtesy of SCDOT)

Moore, his wife, Una, and a collection of friends gathered to celebrate the Ken Moore Intersection signage that will soon be erected. Moore, in honor of his career with the DOT, wore his SCDOT baseball cap to the ceremony, according to The Post and Carrier.

Moore’s spontaneous act of bravery occurred when a Buick Riviera carrying five teenagers on a joyride spun over a guardrail on Riverland Drive on March 16, 1977. The two-door vehicle landed upside-down in Ellis Creek at high tide. Crowds rallied and called for help, but Moore, a foreman at General Electric, then-33, who was on his way to his family home, dove into the water and tugged on a submerged car door to free the teens trapped inside.

Susie Bowick, Kim Jewell, Nancy Farris, Robert Alley, and Billy Truelove all survived.

“If I can help someone, that’s in my DNA,” Moore told The Post and Courier. “I was taught to always give.”

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(Illustration – GEORGE STAMATIS/Shutterstock)

Robert Robbins, SCDOT’s 1st Congressional District Commissioner, said the Ken Moore Intersection was approved at the commission level. “We try to be selective,” he explained, “but this gentleman displayed courage and bravery, coupled with his public service.”

Sen. Tim Scott shared the dedication on his Twitter page, posting on Oct. 5, “Mr. Ken Moore represents the best of South Carolina! He is a hero who saved five teenagers from drowning back in 1977.”

“We are so inspired by your courage, Mr. Moore,” Scott continued. “God bless!”

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(Courtesy of SCDOT)

After connecting with the five teens in a truly profound way years ago, Moore sporadically wondered about their lives later. With help, Moore tracked four of them down in their fifties, as Truelove passed away in 1989 at the age of 29.

The three women—Bowick, Jewell, and Farris—met with Moore for a Mass service at his church, the First Baptist Church of James Island. Jewell later passed away, and Moore attended her graveside service.

“I’m just curious, is all,” Moore explained to The Post and Courier. “I helped save their lives. … I was just wondering where are they? How are they doing? Did they have kids? Do they have grandkids?”

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(Courtesy of SCDOT)

Moore’s actions eventually have paid dividends; five children and six grandchildren lived as a result of his bravery at Ellis Creek in 1977.

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