Driver Relives Dramatic Underwater Rescue
As he approached a stop sign on his route, James Carter nudged the turn signal in his truck to indicate a right turn. Buckets of rain pelted his windshield on what was a stormy Friday outside of Tulsa, Okla. James looked left for traffic. At that exact moment, he saw a car hydroplane and flip into a creek that had flooded a few hundred yards down the road.
James, an employee of NATim Transport, Inc., a business contracted to provide pick-up and delivery services on behalf of FedEx Ground, had a quick decision to make. He could turn right and continue with his deliveries – the bad weather had already put him a little behind schedule – or, he could turn left and make sure whoever was in the vehicle that veered off the road was safe.
Hear from James himself to find out what happened next.
FedEx: What was going through your mind as you witnessed the wreck?
James: Something told me I needed to go check on them to make sure they were alright. I turned left and flipped on my hazard lights.
Video footage courtesy of Kara Copes
FedEx: What was the situation when you got up to the scene of the accident?
James: There were a bunch of car parts in the road that had been torn off by the curb when she hit it. I couldn’t see the car from the street because it had fallen down about 10-feet into the creek. All I saw was the big splash and steam coming from the car from hitting the water. I knew it probably wasn’t a good situation. There were four or five people standing on top of the bridge. I asked them who the driver was and if they were OK. All I remember hearing was that no one had come out of the car yet. There was no time to think. I pulled my scanner off my belt and jumped in the creek. I had my wallet and all my keys and tags in my pockets. I knew the car was filling up with water and there were only a couple minutes of oxygen in the car. We didn’t know who was in the car or if they were by themselves. We didn’t know it was a woman at that point. We just knew someone was in there.
FedEx: What’s going through your mind when you got into the water?
James: I didn’t think. I just did. Myself and two other guys started doing whatever we could. First we tried to rip the door handles off, but they were all locked. Then I said let’s get the car flipped over. Every time we’d lift it, the current would carry it. We knew that wasn’t going to work. At that point I grabbed the back wheel and started kicking the glass trying to bust it out and get in through the window. As I pushed it in, somehow the woman in the car was able to get out through the driver’s side. Once I saw her, I jumped on top of the car, and we started asking her if she was alone or if there was anyone else trapped inside. She was in shock. After a minute or two, she told us she was by herself. I knew we had to get her out of the cold water as soon as we could. Me and the two other guys got her up on top of the car and waited on EMS. They got a ladder to us, and we helped her get off the car and out of the creek to safety.
FedEx: What happened next?
James: I took a deep breath and climbed back out. It looked like the woman was safe and the EMS team had everything under control at that point. I said ‘You guys have a good day,’ and back to work I went.
FedEx: You kept driving after that dramatic rescue?
James: Oh yeah. I had more stops to hit. My boss sent me a backup to help with some of my deliveries. I was able to get back to my house and grab a dry shirt. I made all my pickups. It was a crazy day with all the storms.
FedEx: How do you keep calm in a situation like this?
James: Believe it or not, it is not the first time I had done this. I’m a certified diver. I’ve been in that situation before. During the floods we had a couple of years ago, I had to save my dog. I live on some acreage in Coweta, Okla. We were crossing a creek, and he had jumped in a really bad area. He couldn’t swim with the current, and I jumped in and grabbed him. I don’t have a fear of the water. I’ve done training underwater at 80-feet deep. You can’t panic. If you panic, you get into trouble. You have to problem solve and get yourself to safety. It was no different with this recent incident.
FedEx: What has it been like for you in the aftermath of this rescue?
James: I haven’t watched any of the videos. I prefer being called a good samaritan rather than a hero. There are heroes all over the place risking their lives on a daily basis wearing a uniform or overseas fighting for our freedom. I’m a guy that happened to be in the right place at the right time.