Road Ranger speaks after rescuing man from Orlando pond
Garrett Popovich, 22, saves driver's life
ORLANDO, Fla. – A Road Ranger is sharing his story after rescuing a man whose car crashed into a retention pond along a Central Florida toll road.
Garrett Popovich said he was driving a regular patrol along State Road 417 near Lake Nona Thursday when he saw the scene.
He said he saw people along the bank of the pond and thought the driver was out of the vehicle, but realized he was still in the car.
"I saw [his] hands on the window, banging the window. I said, 'He's got to get out," Popovich said. "It was sinking very quickly and I said, 'The fire department is not going to get here in time.'"
Popovich said his instincts took over. He grabbed a glass breaker from his truck and ran into the water. He swam over to the vehicle and hit the passenger window several times.
"I was able to make a hole enough for me to pull the rest of the glass out of the window," he said.
Popovich helped pull the driver out of the sinking vehicle and they swam to shore. Both men collapsed as soon as they made it to dry land.
"I said, 'Man, you're lucky.' And he goes, 'Man, thank you.' And I said, 'No problem. It's what we're out here to do,'" the 22-year-old Road Ranger said he told the driver after the rescue.
Popovich has been a Road Ranger for a month. He said he does not have any water rescue training, but he knew he had to help the victim.
"Morally I couldn't watch [him] sink a car and I knew I had a tool that could save his life and that's what I did," Popovich said.
Popovich said he's lucky he was at the right place at the right time and is thankful he could help the victim.
"I'm just glad that he's able to go home and hug his 2-year-old son. That's what means the world to me," he said.
The Central Florida Expressway hopes Popovich's story will also serve as a reminder to drivers to move over and slow down when they see first responders working scenes on high speed roads.
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