When he pulled over at the scene, Ratliff said there was a bystander who pointed out 70-year-old William Floyd Smith, unconscious in the driver’s seat of one of the trucks. Ratliff looked closer and realized Smith was not breathing and did not have a pulse.
In the truck’s passenger side was Smith’s 13-year old grandson, who Smith was driving to school at the time he went into cardiac arrest and passed out. His grandson was on the phone with 911 at that point and the dispatcher recognized Ratliff’s voice through the phone.
“My dispatcher could hear me and, he said, ‘Chief, is that you?’” Ratliff said.
Ratliff said he and the bystander got Smith out of the vehicle and set him on the ground where Ratliff began chest compressions.
“He tried to breathe a little bit, a couple of times, and then he would stop when I would stop doing compressions,” Ratliff said.
League City EMS Chief Gregory Kunkel arrived then and took over compressions.
“It was just one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a long time, seeing the police chief in a full suit down on the street doing compressions, which made all the difference in the world,” Kunkel said.
By the time Smith was being taken to the hospital by EMS, Ratliff said he was in a more stable condition.
“If you've ever seen League City EMS work on the side of the road like that ... it's like an emergency room on the side of the road,” Ratliff said. “EMS guys are really the true heroes each and every day, because those guys are the ones that sustain life, from the scene to the hospital.”
A couple months later, on May 27, Ratliff and Smith reunited for the first time, and Ratliff recounted the events to Smith as he had no memories of the incident himself. Ratliff said he was happy to see Smith again.
“It was good to see him and I was glad to see that he was feeling better,” Ratliff said.
At this reunion, Smith expressed his gratitude to Ratliff, as well as to Kunkel and the EMS crew members who were also present.
“Because y’all were so good at what you do, I’m able to be here today and spend some more time with my family,” Smith said.
Since then, Ratliff said he has kept in touch by sending Smith periodic text messages.
“I think that he feels like he owes me something, because he'll make comments every now and then when I'm asking him how he's doing, like ‘I'm doing okay because of you’,” Ratliff said. “I get that he feels that. But, honestly, I probably recognize my guys, at least 12 to 15 times a year for lifesaving work ... It's what we do.”
Ratliff has been with the League City Police Department for 37 years.
“I've probably applied lifesaving measures to anywhere from 12 to 24 people throughout the years that I was on patrol way back when, and most of the time, it doesn't come out well,” said Ratliff.