It was a terrifying start to the new year for 20-year-old Amanda Antonio, who nearly drowned inside her sinking car off a Florida highway.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported that Antonio had been driving home from a New Year’s Eve party in the early morning hours on Jan. 1 in foggy, dark conditions.
A vehicle cut in front of Antonio’s vehicle, causing her to lose control and fly off the highway into a watery, muddy ditch.
In her shock, Antonio managed to find an air pocket in the car and used her phone to dial 911.
Rescuers had just moments to try and track down the terrified woman before she drowned.
Danny Alvarez, a spokesman with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, said the foggy conditions made it difficult to locate Antonio.
“You know someone is drowning,” Alvarez told WTXF-TV. “You can hear them and you don’t want that to be the last call.”
“Imagine you hearing that on the radio, it’s foggy and you can’t find her, but you can hear her,” Alvarez said. “That kind of pressure, that kind of stress was intense.”
But Antonio proved adept at saving her own life, as she was able to remain calm and use the map feature on her phone to explain to the dispatcher where she was.
With just moments to spare, deputies Jeremy Pollack and Chris Sullivan, members of HCSO’s dive team, suited up and dove straight into the chilly, murky waters.
“It was thick, muddy, disgusting water,” Pollack said.
Pollack and Sullivan managed to open the passenger side door and found that the waters had risen past Antonio’s lips and had almost reached her nose.
“In that scenario, where she was almost encased in mud, there was no way she would have been able to get out of that vehicle on her own,” said Pollack.
But miraculously, Antonio emerged from the vehicle with minor injuries and was treated and released at a local hospital.
Her family said Antonio is still trying to process the fresh trauma and is extremely thankful to everyone who played a role in saving her life.
“They are angels,” Julio Perez, Antonio’s stepfather, said. “Thank you so much. Hopefully, we get to meet them at least, anything we can do for them.
“We are very lucky. Crazy way to start the year, but we are very thankful.”
Alvarez praised Antonio for not panicking, saying her own calmness and quick-thinking during an emergency helped save her life.
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