ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — 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.
“Something told me,” said truck driver Dion Merrick on the video. “I said ‘What's that car doing way off in the field like that? What's the car doing? Come on, man!’
Merrick’s partner, Brandon Antoine, said he said it looked like the silver Nissan in the Amber Alert.
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 were 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 aren't getting out with that big thing.”
As they backed their truck to ensure the suspect couldn't drive away, Merrick and Antoine called the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office. A dispatcher said a deputy would arrive within one minute.
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 is safe right now. Thank God, man. Because I have a little girl of my own. I’m on my job, doing what I got to do,” Merrick said on the video.
And Antoine, a step-father to three children and the father to one, 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,” he said.
These two heroes have two pieces of advice: Always know where you’re children are, and thank a higher power for this miracle.
The other message from these men? So many people often see things that don’t look right, but don’t do anything about them and choose not to get involved. Pelican employees Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine had the courage to do otherwise.