TAMPA - A 17-year-old driver somehow loses control of her car and the vehicle sinks into a retention pond. The teen is at Tampa General Hospital in critical condition but a work crew's quick action may help her survive.
Terry Stiles' life changed today. He stood back and silently watched the Hillsborough County dive team pull a car from a retention pond.
While he watched, he knew he changed someone else's life too. "I just kept doing chest compressions and hollering at her to fight, because every time I yelled at her to fight, she would take a breath," said Stiles.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers said Natasha Thompson, the teenager, was driving northbound on 1-75 near the Crosstown Expressway.
Stiles and his crew were working to repair a bridge when they saw her 2000 Infiniti exit, round the curve and somehow lose control and careen down a grassy field.
"All of us started running that way, and we didn't even know there was water over there until we got over here and we saw the water," said Stiles.
Stiles and another worker, Dwayne Goodrow, jumped in the retention pond.
"We were in there at least four to five minutes easy, going under and coming up," said Goodrow.
Stiles said, "The door, when I tried it at first, would not open. So I got to the other side and when I felt way down, I felt a foot. I was out of breath, and I came up, and I said 'Lord give me the strength' to pull her out of there."
When they got the teenager out, Stiles started CPR.
"I immediately pushed on her back and pushed the water out of her lungs. Then I flipped her over and breathed into her mouth and she tried to breathe immediately after that," said Stiles. "I was like 'Thank you, Lord, she is going to live.'"
Goodrow said, "God was on our side or her side."
Stiles said for the first time in his 56 years he truly feels he made a difference. But he doesn't consider himself a hero.
"I am not a hero," Stiles stressed. "Nope. By the grace of God, I was at the right place at the right time. He's the one that is the hero. He gave me the strength and the will and the way to do it."
While troopers commend the men's bravery. They said this type of accident happens more often than you may think in Florida.
Sergeant Steve Gaskins, a spokesperson with Florida Highway Patrol said the problem is so common, they have posted how to get out of a submerged car on their website (see http://www.flhsmv.gov/FHP/videos/ ).
"Especially in Florida where there are bodies of water near roadways, cars do enter the bodies of water and people get trapped inside the cars," said Sgt. Gaskins.
Gaskins said the most important thing is that you "don't panic. Also, make sure you are always wearing a seatbelt so you can survive the impact," said Sgt. Gaskins.
The dive team retrieved the car. It's windows are broken and the frame dented.
Stiles and Goodrow are just grateful they were there at the right time. They both believe anyone would do what they did.
"I hope they would do the same thing. That could be you," said Goodrow.
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