Pinellas County

Clearwater Fire medics save elderly man from sinking car

Clearwater FLA - A 91-year-old Clearwater man is alive after he drove his car into a pond, thanks to quick work by Clearwater Fire-medics who rushed to help.

Just before noon, the 911 calls started coming in.

Caller: “As I’m standing here, more of the vehicle is submerging. And there are bubbles coming up.”

91-year-old Harry Hefter hit the gas as he tried to park at the Top of the World apartments.

His car plunged into a small, but deep pond. Clearwater fire-rescue responded.

Fire medics Paul Sudduth and Andrew Sullivan put on their life jackets and jumped in. “He was in the back seat.  Cuz how the car was elevated, he just had a small pocket of air. He was still breathing” said Paul Sudduth.

Getting Hefter out was no easy task. He's very tall. “Had to pull the patient down then out in order to clear his head and him out of the vehicle” said Andrew Sullivan.

Their time to act was limited. “The water was up above his neck.  So he might have had 6 to 8 inches of breathable air still left” said Sudduth.

Both pulled hefter to shore. “This might be a once in a lifetime type rescue where they're actually able to jump in and rescue somebody that close, and they did a fantastic job” said Assistant Fire Chief Ricky Stasiowski.

Witnesses played a key role. “Had the lady not seen it, it probably would have been days or weeks or whenever before they realized the car was in the pond” said neighbor, Toni Reinwald.

With their adrenalin kicking in, the 2 fire medics, saved a man's life. “That's why we do the job.  That's exactly why we do the job” said Paul Sudduth.

Harry Hefter will be fine. The fire medics said they train for exactly this kind of water rescue.


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