Police snipers were called to provide cover for rescue crews after a car crashed into an alligator-infested pond in Florida over the weekend.
Rescue crews were called to the scene of an accident Friday afternoon after a driver swerved off the road and into a retention pond. Police divers were called to rescue the driver and a passenger of the car after it sunk into the water. The driver and the passenger were successfully rescued from the water.
“The vehicle lost control, overturned, driving off of the roadway into the pond,” Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Alex Camacho told local news reporters after the rescue operation. “Dive teams from fire rescue and Miami-Dade Police did their search and rescue, and were able to rescue an adult female and adult male inside of the vehicle at the time.”
According to WSVN Miami, the accident happened on the Florida Turnpike Friday afternoon. The driver of a blue Toyota minivan was driving southbound on the Turnpike was attempting to exit onto Southwest Eighth Street in Miami, when he lost control of the vehicle while trying to follow the right curve on the exit ramp. The minivan reportedly overturned then slid into the pond.
Newsreel footage from the dramatic rescue showed at least one police officer lying on the bank of the pond in a prone position, looking down the sights of a rifle towards the pond. Other images shown in WSVN’s report show other officers carrying rifles at different areas around the banks of the retention pond, as well as at least one alligator swimming in the pond with its head above water. The footage also shows police and fire rescue divers in their gear treading water in the pond before diving down into the water. “They’re advising the vehicle is sinking,” a dispatcher said in the report. “There is a person inside.” WSVN also reported that several good samaritans rushed to the scene to help.
Divers were able to rescue the two people in the vehicle. Footage from WSVN showed crews pulling one of the occupants out of the water to safety. Crews were able to rescue both occupants of the vehicle, and administered CPR to one of the occupants, an elderly woman. Both occupants were then rushed to a local hospital by paramedics on the scene. Initial reports indicated that a child was also among the victims of the accident, as there was a child’s carseat in the car, but officials later confirmed that no child was in the car at the time. Crews were able to tow the damaged minivan out from the pond, and it was hauled away from the scene.
The New York Post later identified the victims as Nieves Matos, 80, and her son Mario “Merme” Laza, 56. Unfortunately, Laza was pronounced dead late Friday night. The family of the two victims started a GoFundMe to assist with funeral costs for Laza and medical bills for Matos. “Merme was a person that you would never forget just by meeting him once,” the GoFundMe page reads. “[He] was someone full of life, laughter and good times to share, with a giant heart and a unique personality. [His] mother Nieve remains hospitalized but stable.”