Chain reaction crash causes car with children inside to overturn in St. Petersburg canal

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Four Good Samaritans are being credited with rescuing two children trapped inside a car that flipped over in a St. Petersburg canal Tuesday afternoon.

According to St. Petersburg police, a chain reaction crash caused the car the children were riding in to be knocked into a canal on 77 Ave. N.  A rescuer said the two little boys had just been picked up from school by their father.

It was around 2 p.m., a hectic time in the area, as parents line up to get their children from Sawgrass Elementary School.

According to police, the female driver of a gold Chevy Tahoe was heading eastbound on 77th Avenue North when she accelerated.  Officers say she had four children in her car.

They say she slammed into the cars in front of her, sending a silver sedan carrying the boys and their father into the water.  The boys are 8 and 9-years-old.

Then, she also crashed into the canal. Her and her children made it out safely.

Richard Aikman heard the crash from inside his house, ran out, and helped with the rescue.  By the time he jumped into the canal, the boys' father and the 9-year-old had managed to get out.

"The father got the right side doors open and then he yelled, "I cannot get him out, the seatbelt is stuck!" recalled Aikman.  "So, I  started yelling for a knife and  that neighbor next door here threw us a pocket knife and I think it was the father who actually cut him out."

Aikman said the pastor at the church across from the canal also assisted in the rescue.  It was a karate instructor driving a bus that performed CPR on the child.

"I was just at the edge of the bank and helped pull him up to the bank, pulled his neck back, started on the chest, started CPR," said Paul Acklin.

Acklin said another woman on the bank performed mouth-to-mouth on the boy.

"He started crying and we were all pretty elated.  He was blue when we got him out.  It was intense," Acklin explained.

The child was rushed to the hospital as a trauma alert.

"Everyone was screaming" Help! Help!" said Heather Gagoua, a parent and witness.  "Just chaotic, just chaos."

Area residents told ABC Action News they predicted an accident like this would happen.

They asked not to be identified, but added that they see many parents picking up their children engaging in distracted driving.

"They're texting and one time they were doing homework on the steering wheel," said the resident.

Residents said just last week police officers were ticketing the parents.

Police said the names of those involved will not be released until Wednesday.

Officers added that the female driver of the Tahoe was at fault and charges are pending.

Weather is not believed to be a factor in the crash.

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