Firefighters and Deputies Rescue Man From Submerged Car After 2-Vehicle Wreck at SR100 Exit Ramp
FlaglerLive | January 2, 2016
A two-vehicle wreck at 10 this morning at the northbound exit ramp of I-95 and State Road 100 ended with one of the two cars crashing into a retention pond and triggering a rescue of the driver by three Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and four firefighters, who all dove into the 8-foot-deep waters.
Deputies were able to smash one or two of the submerged car’s windows. The driver, James Austin, 53, of Ormond Beach, was pulled out by Lt. Dusty Snyder of the Flagler Beach Fire Department, who’d just gone off duty and was driving home when, stopped at the traffic light on 100 and the northbound ramp to I-95, “I just happened to look to the south and see the car in the water,” Snyder said in an email. “It was truly a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“I arrived on the scene at the same time as the Sheriff’s office personnel,” Snyder continued (correcting an earlier account that left the impression that he’d been first to go in the water.) “One or two of them were in the water before I was and were already working on breaking out the rear window to try to pull the driver out. He was still buckled in his seatbelt and we couldn’t move him from the driver seat until Engine 92 arrived with additional tools and swam them out to us so that the driver window could be broken. It is true that I was the one that broke the driver window and cut the seatbelt off, but everything else was a team effort for sure.”
Austin had no pulse and was blue when he was pulled out. Rescuers, who were in the cold water about 10 minutes, brought the man to the embankment and immediately provided CPR, reviving his pulse, before transporting him to Florida Hospital Flagler. Austin was stabilized at FHF then transported to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach, in either serious or critical condition, around 11 a.m. (He faces a careless driving charge.)
The wreck took place just after 10 a.m.
Assuming Austin survives, he will owe his life to Snyder, Lt. Steve Cox of the Flagler Beach Fire Department, Flagler County Fire Rescue’s David Lawrence and Dennis Moore, and sheriff’s deputies Jason Neat, Richard Petrovsek and Ryan Emery, all of whom dove in the water in their uniforms. The deputies and Snyder were at the scene–and in the water–as the trunk of the car, believed to be a silver Honda, was just visible as it was being swallowed by the water. When it settled on the bottom of the pond, Moore said, “the roof of the car was about three and a half feet below the water.”
“They did a great job, an awesome job,” Capt. Richard Bennet of Flagler County Fire Rescue said at the scene. “It really shows you when the time comes for it they really work as a team, fire rescue, sheriff, Flagler Beach, it doesn’t matter what their badge says.”
Video: The Salvage Operation
The wreck involved a four-door Chevrolet Sonic and the sedan that went into the water–a silver Honda Accord. According to a Florida Highway Patrol investigator at the scene, the Honda was being driven erratically on I-95, going north, when it suddenly shot across three lines of traffic toward the exit, where it clipped the back of the Chevy as the Chevy had begun to exit. The Chevy ended up wrecking against a railing, then against retention wall of the highway, about 75 yards north of the point where the Honda crashed into the water. The driver of the Chevy, Seamus O’Conner, 40, from New Jersey, was not hurt, and was walking about at the scene.
Both vehicles were to be towed by Saxon’s Towing of Bunnell, with Saxon’s Robert Clark preparing to dive into the water around noon to hook the vehicle to cables so it could be pulled out. The Palm Coast Fire Police closed the exit ramp at 10 a.m. The salvage operation began at about 12:15 and took some 20 minutes before the Honda was pulled out.
Cpl. Emery, the sherif’s deputy, later noted that “there were numerous Good Samaritans who assisted and we were unable to thank any of them prior to departing from the scene.” He wanted to stress his and other deputies’ thanks to those good samaritans.
Snyder added: “As a firefighter we train for all sorts of fire and rescue emergencies constantly. The real heroes of this incident were the Sheriff’s office personal who don’t train for these types of incidents, but jump right in (no pun intended) and do what needs to be done to save a life.”