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Winter Haven family rescued from sinking car by good Samaritans

Posted at 3:24 PM, Mar 23, 2019

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Good Samaritans came to the rescue of a Winter Haven family trapped in their car after in plunged into a lake Saturday morning.

The Winter Haven Police Department says the family was driving on northbound First St. around Lake Silver around 10:30 a.m. when it happened. The car's steering wheel locked up and caused the vehicle to travel into the lake.

Inside was a 33-year-old man, his wife, and their 2-year-old daughter.

Andrew Petzold and Rosemary Angsten were two of the people who rushed to help.

“It was horrible it was a big feeling of helplessness,” Angsten told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska.

Angsten said she tried breaking the window to get the family out but couldn’t.

“In this moment I saw that mothers face and that child and I didn’t know what to do,” Angsten said through tears. “I dove into the water, and I went up to the front door on the passenger side, and I tried to open it, and it was locked. The father was in the front seat, and mom and the child were in the back. They weren’t reacting. There was almost no reaction from them; they weren’t attempting to get out of the vehicle.”

Law enforcement later told Angsten the family were in shock and didn’t speak English, only Creole.

Angsten and her daughter Nevaeh Tessen were competing in the All American Water Ski Tournament.

Tessen was on a break from the competition when she saw the car plunged into the water.

“At first I didn’t think it was a car,” Tessen said. “OK. There’s a car driving into the lake.”

That’s when Tessen’s mom grabbed Petzold, the head boat driver for their ski team Cypress Gardens, and they raced across the lake.

Angsten said if it weren’t for a Good Samaritan jumping in from shore with a tire iron, the family wouldn’t have survived.

“Had he been 30 seconds later, I honestly don’t think we would’ve saved them, because the car went down that quick afterward” Angsten said. “That tire iron saved the day.”

Angsten managed to pull the mother to shore. Good Samaritans got the toddler out just as the back window started going under.

The entire family pulled out just before the vehicle completely sank to the bottom of the lake, the police department said. The family was uninjured but taken to the hospital to be checked out.

"This is just one more example of the wonderful citizens in Winter Haven coming to the rescue without hesitation," said Public Safety Director Charlie Bird. "This family undoubtedly survived this crash because of these good Samaritans who took no regard for their own safety to ensure the family was rescued.”

Officials were able to pull the vehicle out of the lake after several hours of work.

“A lot of brave people saved the day,” Angsten said. “It was a happy emotional it ended with a very successful rescue, but our whole team came together. Most people would do the same thing I didn’t think twice about jumping in."