WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (FOX 13) - A Winter Haven family is lucky to be alive after their car plunged into Lake Silver on Saturday. Thankfully, the accident happened at the same time as a water skiing tournament, so good Samaritans from all around rushed to their aid.
For as many runs as the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team has taken, the one performed Saturday was, without a doubt, the most important.
"We were taking a break between acts and all of a sudden, chaos happened," said team member Kat MacCalla.
Around 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Winter Haven police say, Henry Saint-Hilaire was driving northbound on First Street when his steering locked to the left -- sending him, his wife, and their 2-year-old daughter into Lake Silver.
"She says, 'Mom, a car drove right in the lake right over there,'" recalled Rosemary Angsten, a member of the team.
Angsten grabbed their boat driver and headed in their direction.
"I was banging on the window and begging her to unroll the window or unlock the door and there just was no reaction," Angsten said. "So, we've been told the family was in shock."
Drivers began to pull over and more and more people jumped in. The car was sinking, inch by inch, as they tried unsuccessfully to break the windows.
"There was that split where I thought, 'That's it. There's nothing we can do for them,'" William Simmons sadly recalled.
That is, until another good Samaritan grabbed a tire iron.
"He busted the window," MacCalla recalled. "He reached in, grabbed the baby out and in the process got a pretty bad gash in his arm."
Splashing, dragging, doing whatever they could, the group managed to get all three safely to shore.
"It's really difficult to describe the amount of relief because there was a moment that I thought we failed," Angsten said. "I don't think we did anything different than probably anybody else would've done. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Though the family, who speaks mainly Creole, wasn't comfortable speaking on camera, a cousin told us they are so grateful to all who put their lives at risk to help.
"He cannot do nothing. Sink. He don't even know how to defend himself and his wife and their kid," Evelande Dorcelon said in broken English. "I tell them we have to be thankful for them because it is really a miracle for me."
MacCalla said, "I mean, it's just, God is good all the time. He put everybody in the right spot at exactly the right time."
Groups of good Samaritans, some friends, some strangers, prove once again that ordinary people can do some amazing things.
"Whether it's stopping to help someone who's broken down in the middle of the road, even if it’s just to push them to the side of the road, I'd want someone to stop for me and my family," said Simmons.
Public Safety Director Charlie Bird praised all those who had a hand in the rescue.
"This is just one more example of the wonderful citizens in Winter Haven coming to the rescue without hesitation. This family undoubtedly survived this crash because of these good Samaritans who took no regard for their own safety to ensure the family was rescued."