TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff’s dive team pulled a woman to safety early on New Year’s Day after another driver cut her off on Interstate 4 and her vehicle wound up upside down in a muddy ravine.
Amanda Antonio, 33, called 911 at 3:48 a.m., telling dispatchers the water was rising in the foggy darkness near Tampa, said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s spokesman Danny Alvarez.
“We had 13 units trying to race up and down I-4 near the fairground in a dense, dense fog,” Alvarez told WFTS . “Our lights are bouncing back at us from the fog as we’re trying to find this woman that is literally drowning.”
A deputy eventually spotted the rear of her car sticking out of waist-deep muddy water, Alvarez said. He calmed Antonio and kept her in an air pocket until the sheriff’s dive team members arrived to help.
Deputies Chris Sullivan and Jeremy Pollack realized they needed to get her out quickly as water rose in the vehicle.
“It was thick, disgusting muddy water that came up to your chest and was very difficult to move through,” said Sullivan, a member of the dive team.
Sullivan carried an oxygen tank in case the air pocket disappeared before they could free Antonio. He said he could only pry the driver’s side door open a few inches because it was encased in mud. Pollack eventually got the passenger door open.
“As a dive team, it’s not a lot of chances that we get to actually have someone walk away from the scene, so we’re very fortunate,” Sullivan said.
Antonio suffered minor injuries and was taken to Tampa General Hospital to get checked out.
“New Year’s we usually have stories that are tragic. Bad accidents,” Alvarez said. “Today was a great scenario where everything just came together the right away. We fought the mud. We fought the weather. We fought the lack of knowing where she was. She came out alive because of a really good team effort.”