Survivor of crash that killed Bobby Bowden's grandson released f - WFLA News Channel 8

Survivor of crash that killed Bobby Bowden's grandson released from hospital

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Two men were found dead inside a car that ran off the road and into a creek in Winter Haven. Two men were found dead inside a car that ran off the road and into a creek in Winter Haven.
T.J. Bowden, the 23-year-old grandson of former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, was one of two men who died in the crash. Image courtesy: Facebook T.J. Bowden, the 23-year-old grandson of former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, was one of two men who died in the crash. Image courtesy: Facebook
WINTER HAVEN, FL (WFLA) -

The sole survivor of the car crash that killed two men, including the grandson of former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, is out of the hospital and recovering at home with his family. Autopsy results released Friday show the other passengers in the car both drowned.

Investigators believe Robert Lewis Edwards, 22 of 655 Jeffrey St. in Boca Raton, was likely in the upside-down, submerged car for as many as 10 hours and survived. Doctors at Winter Haven Hospital treated him for hypothermia and an abrasion on his head before they released him.

“It’s a miracle he made it,” said Saul Velasquez-Mejia, the man who spotted the car and led deputies to the scene. “God makes miracles.”

Velasquez works picking up brush on a Florida Refuse Truck. He was in the passenger seat of a truck when he noticed the fence was down on Country Club Road South, between Dundee Rd. and Lake Hamilton Rd around 7:45 Thursday morning.

“I see a fence tore up…and the corner of what looked like a car in the ditch,” Velasquez said. “I told my driver to slow down, check it out.”

They didn’t know at the time that Edwards and two others were in the submerged Mitsubishi: Rafael Valim, the 25 year-old driver of 112 Campbell Dr. in Winter Haven, and Taylor Jeffrey “TJ” Bowden, Bobby Bowden’s grandson, who was 23 of 337 Towhee Rd. in Winter Haven.

The Polk Co. Sheriff’s Office said preliminarily that, based on interviews with the men's friends and family and phone calls from that night, it appears the three were at Indigo's bar on US 17 in Winter Haven during Christmas evening. Deputies believe the crash happened around 2:00 a.m. the next morning, Dec. 26. They think the men were on their way to a friend's house in the area of where the crash occurred.

Deputies say alcohol appears to be a factor in the crash, but they are awaiting toxicology results to make a final determination.

Velasquez spotted the car around 7:45 and Winter Haven Police, PCSO Deputies, Fire/EMS, and the PCSO dive team arrived on-scene not long after. There were no signs of life from within the car. The front end it was completely submerged, and a portion of the back end was sticking up out of the water, according to deputies.

Then around 11:45 a.m., nearly 10 hours after the wreck likely happened, deputies on the dive team heard noises coming from within the car. Edwards was telling them he was cold and needed help. Until that point, deputies say, he was quiet and did not respond to any of the first responders' efforts to locate survivors.

The dive team, comprised of Deputy Sheriff Jeff Kistler and Deputy Sheriff Bob Clayton, pulled Edwards from the car. He had been in the back seat and survived, submerged in the water up to his neck.

“I want to shake his hand and say 'God has a purpose for you,'” Velasquez said. “It’s not your time.”

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