Roads can look very different when they’re hiding under a few feet of water. Every year when major storms hit, there are people who misjudge the depth of water covering the streets and get stuck.
Nathalia Bruno, a 24-year-old from Newark, New Jersey, didn’t get stuck, though — her flood experience was much more dramatic.
Bruno, a DoorDash delivery driver, made the decision to drive through floodwater in Passaic on July 6 after significant flooding had taken place, Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost told NorthJersey.com.
Her car was swept into an underground viaduct opening. At first it floated, then the Prius began to fill with water, so Bruno scrambled out — but not before she was somewhere under the streets in the underground brook.
“I tried to grab the car, but I couldn’t. I remember trying to grab the wheel, but I couldn’t,” she told WABC-TV.
“For me it was five minutes, all dark, trying to breathe, trying to put my feet on the ground, to pull me and get me some air,” Bruno said.
“[The] water is traveling at 30 mph,” Trentacost said. “When it floods, it floods.”
The car and the woman traveled through the complex labyrinthine brook, and it didn’t take long before Bruno was spit out into the river, about a mile from where the incident started.
“When the Fire Department arrived, this was already over,” Trentacost said. “That’s how fast this was.”
Bruno swam her way out of the water and got back to solid ground. She managed to avoid sustaining any major injuries, which is a bit of a miracle in its own right.
“She was stunned,” Rutherford Police Chief John Russo said. “She was out of it. In shock.”
“She really didn’t know what happened to her.”
The car, however, was a wreck, and it took authorities a while to find it.
“We still can’t figure it out,” Trentacost told NorthJersey.com. “The car, as you could imagine, is pretty much rolled up into a ball.”
The vehicle was trapped in the underground brook 250 feet from the entrance to the river. A work crew had to locate it and then cut the road open to remove the mangled Prius.
DoorDash said that it “reached out to the Dasher to offer our support during her recovery,” and added that it was planning to offer occupational insurance and financial assistance to Bruno.
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