ST. MARTINVILLE, LOUISIANA — Two sanitation workers in south central Louisiana are being praised for their sharp eyes and quick thinking in the rescue of a 10-year-old kidnapping victim.
At 7:30 a.m. Monday, two employees for Pelican Waste & Debris were on the job in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, east of Lafayette. They’d heard the Amber Alert for a missing 10-year old girl from New Iberia earlier in the morning, and as they drove down Burton Plantation Highway, they looked to the left, and saw something suspicious.
They captured the moment on video that they quickly posted to Facebook. “Bruh, something told me,” said truck driver Dion Merrick on the video, “I said ‘What that car doin’ way off in the field like that? what the car doin’? come on, man!’
“And he was like, ‘B, that looks like the silver Nissan in the Amber Alert’,” recalls Merrick’s partner, Brandon Antoine.
Using Facebook to give on location, minute-by-minute updates, Merrick and Antoine chose to act, and they trapped the suspect, Michael Sereal, in the wet and muddy field.
“Look what I did,” said Merrick, turning his camera phone toward his garbage truck, “look where we was parked. I blocked the truck in and made sure he couldn’t get out. He (Sereal) got nervous, he opened the door, and I said to Brandon, ‘that’s the dude right there’. So we blocked the drive onto the highway with that big truck, and I knew, ‘You ain’t gettin’ out with that big thing.”
At the same time, Merrick and Antoine called the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Department. “We called 9-1-1 at the same time I backed my truck up in the driveway to make sure he didn't get out, and talked to the 9-1-1. The operator basically told me i had about a minute before a deputy was going to be on the scene.”
The girl was reported missing from a family's member's home Sunday afternoon, according to New Iberia police. Later Sunday night, an Amber Alert was issued once police had details to share of the vehicle she might be in.
Sereal is being held on a charge of aggravated kidnapping of a child and failure to register as a sex offender, according to records.
KATC reports Sereal was convicted of carnal knowledge of a juvenile in 2016.
Both Antoine and Merrick are fathers, and they say what happened to the young girl and what could have happened strikes close to home. Deciding to get involved was a no-brainer.
“The little girl’s safe right now. Thank God, man. ‘Cuz I got a little girl of my own. I’m on my job, doin’ what I got to do,” said Merrick on the video. And Antoine, a step-father to three children and the father to one more, said the whole incident touched his heart. “Right after, I called one of my children, said ‘I love you’, and I can’t wait to see them all and hug them tight.”
There are a couple of messages from our heroes, even though neither considers himself a hero. Message #1: Know where you’re children are, and #2: Thank a higher power for this miracle.
“Whoever’s little girl this is, you need to fall down on your knees and say, ‘thank you God, thank you. ‘Cuz it could have been worse’.”
The other message from our heroes? So many people often see things that don’t look right, but don’t do anything about them, they choose not to get involved. Pelican employees Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine had the courage to do otherwise.