Pensacola, FL (AP) – A Florida sheriff’s deputy and a motorist are lucky to be alive after they were sucked into a flooded storm drain during a torrential downpour, then dragged underwater for around 30 seconds before emerging, soaked but unharmed, on the other side of a highway.
Deputy William Hollingsworth was helping stranded drivers amid the rapidly rising water early Friday when he saw the motorist disappear beneath the surface. Hollingsworth “rushed to his aid without regard to his own safety,” Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons told reporters.
The pair traveled nearly 100 feet (30 meters) under four lanes of Highway 98, Simmons said. The episode was recorded by the deputy’s body camera, although the underwater portion of the video is completely dark, filled only with the muffled sounds of rushing water.
After emerging on the other side, Hollingsworth calls out to the driver while wading toward him, shouting “Buddy I got you! Oh Jesus!” Red and blue lights from his police cruiser reflect off the pitch-black water. The motorist, who wasn’t identified by name, yells, “I almost died.”
The two hold onto each other as they head back across the road, still in disbelief.
“I’ve never held my breath like that in my life,” the deputy says. “Me neither,” the motorist agrees.
Other law enforcement officers arrive and the pair recounts their experience.
“Thank you man, for like, being there when I came out,” the driver tells Hollingsworth. “When I came out, you were right behind me.”
Later, sitting in a law enforcement vehicle, the driver gives the deputy a firm handshake.
“Me and you, man!” he says, “That’s an experience for life and I appreciate you.”