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Friday, March 16th, 2007

Woman saves herself from submerged auto

By Shelley Grieshop
A Sidney woman miraculously escaped drowning in her car when it traveled off state Route 29 near New Knoxville and submerged in 15 feet of floodwaters before dawn Thursday morning.
Theresa Haynes, 45, crawled through the window of her 2002 Chevy Malibu as water poured in around her, climbed ashore on her knees, then spent nearly two hours in soaked clothing searching for a way back to the highway. Temperatures dropped to 32 overnight.
"I'm scared to death of water. I can't swim," Haynes told The Daily Standard in a phone call from her Shelby County home this morning.
As she exited the car, it quickly went underwater and was swept downstream about 250 yards, where it remains today; the antenna and sunroof barely visible.
Haynes said she was on her way to her sister's house in St. Marys about 3:30 a.m. when she remembers the car entering Branch Creek, a feeder creek that runs into the St. Marys River and normally is filled with 3 to 4 feet of water.
Heavy rainfalls that dumped nearly 3 inches of precipitation earlier this week, caused extensive flooding across the Grand Lake area.
Scared to death, Haynes said the only thing she could think of was getting her window down as she headed into the freezing water.
"I knew I had electric windows and had to get them down. I knew I was in trouble, maybe I watch too much TV, but I knew I had to get that window down to get out," she said.
She waited until the last minute to exit the car because of her fear of water, she said. The current was strong, but she said, "God was with me."
"I'm not even sure which end of the car I was on but I grabbed something - the top of the car's hood or the spoiler. I can't really remember, but I used it to get as close as I could to the bank," she explained.
Haynes said, in her mind, she'd hoped the car would get wedged near the bank so she could just crawl out, but that didn't happen. She had to let go of the car for a bit until her hand grabbed the muddy, steep embankment. She pulled herself up the hill, knee by muddy knee, she said.
"The whole time I'm praying. I remember getting to the top and hugging a tree. Everywhere I looked, water was all around," she said, describing the creek, which was out of its banks.
It was pitch black and she had lost her sense of direction. She crawled a bit, she said, waiting for headlights to show her which way to the road. She said she felt so alone.
"I honestly thought I was dying. No one was ever going to find me," Haynes said.
After more than an hour and a half, she crawled her way to state Route 29 and made her way to a farmhouse but no one answered the door, she said. Desperate for help, she went back to the road and watched as four vehicles drove by without stopping to help.
Her only clothes - a Levi jacket, T-shirt and jeans - began to stiffen from the cold. She again headed down the road until she found a house with a porch light left on. The people there were wonderful, she said. They wrapped her in blankets and helped her until rescuers arrived to transport her to the hospital where she was released a few hours later.
Haynes said she's not a religious woman but feels what happened to her was a true miracle. She still can't believe how the events unfolded so quickly.
"One moment I'm driving down the road and the next minute I'm in the water," she said.
Thursday afternoon she went with a family member back to the scene. It gave her the chills, she said.
"Everybody keeps asking me, 'Just how did you get out of there alive?' " she said.
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