Deputies rescue 82-year-old from pond

- Deputy Trent Migues and his partner, Deputy Benjamin Thompson, say it's terrifying to think about what could have gone wrong.

"If we hadn't gotten there when we did, I think even 30 seconds would have been too much longer," said HCSO Deputy Thompson.

Friday evening, the partners didn't hesitate when they got the call to rescue a driver trapped in an SUV that had crashed into a pond in Plant City near the intersection of Alexander Road North and Paul Buchman Highway.

"When we arrived, there was just this red SUV floating,” Thompson recalled.  “It wasn't sitting, floating on the water in the middle of this retention pond."

Leona Evans was inside, and couldn't get out. Investigators say the 82-year-old woman drove across four lanes of traffic, crashed through a street sign, jumped over a ditch, slammed into the ground and a fence, before plunging into the water.

Witnesses were already trying to help Leona when Thompson and Migues pulled up.

"They had actually gotten a rope, they were trying to attach the car thinking they could pull it back while it was floating,” said Thompson.

Thompson swam over to the Hyundai Santa Fe.  He says it was filling with water, the doors wouldn't open, and Leona was petrified.

That’s when the 11-year veteran of the force grabbed his baton to smash the front passenger window.

"I hit that window in the corner, and I hit it, and I hit it, and I hit it, and I hit it with all my life, then after about the sixth time it finally shattered,” Thompson said.  “And I knew the water was going to come in at that point, but I didn't realize how fast, it was like a waterfall, that car began to sink."

"The scariest moment was when her screaming stopped, and the roof line started going underneath the water, and my partner here disappeared in the car with her," Migues said.

Maybe it was science, or luck, even a miracle, but somehow Thompson leaned into that car and pulled Leona out.  He cut his face, arms and hands on the jagged glass in the process.

Migues and a few people who stopped to help grabbed the two and got everyone back to solid ground.

"She was injured pretty bad, but she stuck out like a champ," he said.  "I told her she was a tough old lady, she enjoyed hearing that."

It's still not clear what caused Leona to run off the road.  Family says she was actually on her way home from visiting her son who recently had surgery.

Loved ones say Leona is at Lakeland Regional Hospital in the Trauma ICU with broken bones, open wounds, head trauma and possible damage to her spinal cord.

They're grateful to the officers who put aside the danger to their lives, to save Leona’s life.

The two deputies say they wish they knew the names of the bystanders who helped in the rescue so they could say thank you.

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