ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - A father has his 12-year-old son to thank for saving both of their lives.
High tide on Saturday caused their car to get stuck in floodwater in the Shore Acres neighborhood of St Petersburg. The car later caught on fire.
"The flames just got like 7-feet high, and it was scary," said 12-year-old Raleigh Walker.
He and his father were driving on Connecticut Avenue Northeast in St. Petersburg when they came across floodwater on a neighborhood street.
They tried driving through the water, only to realize it was a bit too high. A passing vehicle splashed the salt water onto the hood of their car. Shortly after, it began to stall.
"We tried turning it on, but we realized that that wasn't a good thing," said Raleigh.
A neighbor nearby let them push the car up into their yard. As his father tried to figure out what was wrong, Raleigh noticed smoke coming from under the hood.
"I smelled smoke. My dad was on his phone. He wouldn't have realized, because he had his mouth in his shirt, wiping his face. He wouldn't have noticed for a couple more minutes," said Raleigh.
He yelled to his father to get out of the car. Both father and son were able to get far enough away from the car as it went up in flames.
A firefighter, who arrived on scene a few minutes later, told the duo if they hadn't noticed the smoke for a few more minutes and did not call 911, the entire vehicle could have exploded.
"It was a white car, but it ended up to be black. All the interior was gone and everything," said Raleigh.
The family was not injured, but they're now searching for a new vehicle.
St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue officials are warning drivers not to try to drive through flooding, even if they think their vehicle can make it.
"If you become trapped in the water you need rescuing, so you've got to call 911 or you have to call and request assistance. If you get out of the vehicle, you run the risk of these manhole covers. They float up," explained Deputy Fire Marshal Steven Lawrence. "If they float up, you get out of the vehicle and you're walking down the street or roadway, you can fall into that manhole."
Lawrence advises drivers who push their vehicles out of flood waters to let the vehicle sit for a while, so the engine can dry off before trying to start it.
Saltwater can quickly corrode an engine as well, so it's best to consult a mechanic if your vehicle ever gets caught in flood waters.