COLUMBIA, N.C. (WNCN) – Two North Carolina deputies were credited with saving a woman from Nash County who was trapped in a mostly submerged vehicle near the Outer Banks on Monday night.
Two Tyrrell County deputies received an alert about an overdue driver and missing person from Nash County who could have broken down along U.S. 64. They responded to the area and began looking for the vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.
On their second check of the area, the two said spotted a small portion of a vehicle protruding from the water alongside U.S. 64 near the Alligator River Bridge in Columbia. Deputy Andrew Hughes then jumped into the water “with no concern for his own personal safety,” the sheriff’s office said.
“From where we were, the way the car was in the canal, we could only see … the back portion of the driver’s side. I’ll be honest — that scared me a lot,” Hughes said. “I tried to go in from the road side, got up to about my waist and could feel my feet sinking.”
Hughes got out to the car and found a woman huddled in a small pocket of air near the back window of the car. He called out to her, and she nodded back. That’s how Hughes knew she was still alive and he needed to get her out of there.
The two deputies broke the window out “and rescued the driver from certain death,” the sheriff’s office said. They credited citizens who stopped with providing a crowbar they were able to use to get the back windshield off.
After the woman was safely removed from the car, they had to wait almost 20 minutes on the roof before emergency crews responded with a small boat to help them back to the road.
“There is a lot of snakes and there’s alligators in there,” said Deputy Melissa Spence, who responded with Hughes. “It made me more nervous with them on the back of the car because the car started sinking. This is a very rural community and it took about 15 or 20 minutes before the fire department even got there.”
The Tyrrell County Fire Department and Washington County EMS responded. The woman was taken to the hospital to be evaluated.
Spence said she checked in with the woman on Tuesday to find out she was home resting and suffered no injuries.
It was quite the experience for a Monday.
“Tuesday night was a little bit more laid back. We were still trying to recover from Monday,” Spence said.
Hughes added: “We came in Tuesday night and we looked at each other and said, ‘What’s the plan?’ I said, ‘Stay dry! That’s the plan for tonight.'”