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Orlando Police Officers Save Family Trapped in Submerged Vehicle

Orlando Police Officers Save Family Trapped in Submerged Vehicle

by Leah AnayaDecember 14, 2020

Orlando, FL – Several police officers from the Orlando Police Department are being credited with saving the lives of a father and a four-year-0ld boy who were trapped in a submerged vehicle.

Body cam footage shows a 12-year-old boy crying and begging police to help his father and his brother out of the vehicle, which was upside down in a retention pond near Lee Vista Boulevard and Vista East Parkway. The 44-year-old father was driving a Nissan Sentra when reportedly an animal ran out into the roadway. He swerved to avoid a collision, but lost control, hit a curb, and drove over the median and into the pond.

A bystander witnessed the collision and rushed to help the family. He held the four-year-old child’s head above the water as he called 911.

When police arrived, the 12-year-old has just crawled out of the vehicle and was wading towards the shore. He’s heard yelling, “Please, please, please just help them. Just help them, please. Please help them. Please help, help them.”

One of the officers coaxes the 12-year-old, Gabriel, out of the water and got him to safety before getting to work rescuing the boy’s trapped family members.

Responding units, Corporal Randy Johnson and Officers McKenzie Greene and Tyler Smith, along with the fire department were able to pull the man and the other child, who was strapped into a car seat, out of the vehicle safely.

All three occupants of the vehicle were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The father later told police that as he tried to avoid hitting the animal, he accidentally hit the accelerator rather than the breaks.

The officers spoke with the local news outlet. According to Click Orlando, Officer Greene said, “Myself and Smith were actually were basically full body in the trunk trying to figure out a way to knock down the seats. I know at one point because my arm was the smallest, we reached all the way through and I was grabbing like a toddler’s arm, just doing everything we could to keep him above water.”

Greene continued, “I don’t think it hit me until all three people were out and we took a deep breath. We got them all out.”

Corporal Johnson told the reporter, “Your heart definitely sinks to the bottom of your stomach whenever you see that and especially a car flipped upside down and then opening the door and then seeing a car seat flipped upside down as well definitely gives you a little shivers.”

Johnson also said, after being told the officers’ actions were heroic, “I don’t necessarily think about it being heroic. I think about it as being a good person and I would hope someone would do the same for me if I was stuck in the water.”

And Officer Smith said, “Eventually we cut him out with, like a seatbelt cutter to get him out of his car’s seat and seat belt.” Smith also spoke of the 48-year-old bystander, identified as Jose Diaz, that jumped in to help the child saying, “He called 911, he also went into the water and held the child’s head above water before we got there. Personally, I believe in God and God definitely put him in that position to ultimately save lives.”

Diaz told the Orlando Sentinel that he jumped in the water with his flashlight as soon as he saw the car stop. He wasn’t able to get the back seats down to access the four-year-old, he said, so he held the child’s head until police arrived. Diaz said, “I didn’t think about that at the moment, just take action. That was the main worry, … you try to save the life of the kids.”

Diaz works as a security guard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

About The Author
Leah Anaya
Leah Anaya
Leah Anaya is a medically retired police officer. She served for three years at the Oakland Police Department, and just under five at a department in Washington State. Before that, she was an intelligence analyst in the US Army. She is now a stay at home mom living with her husband, who is still serving as a police officer, and their three children. She also grew up as the daughter of a police officer in California. Leah is now a writer and Deputy Editor at Law Enforcement News Network as well as the Business Manager for Washington State FOP. She's a peer support advocate for The Wounded Blue and Serve and Protect. You can find her on social media @leahmsanaya or at
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