Durham officers who saved women talk about what happened

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Durham officers who saved women talk about what happened

Three Durham police officers and a man who is applying to be a Durham police officer are being hailed as heroes after pulling two women, one of them pregnant, out of a sinking car.

On Wednesday afternoon, a call went out about a car that had driven into a retention pond at 4505 South Alston Street.

Durham police say the driver, Edwoe Mante, was driving a Honda and tried to turn into the library parking lot when she hit a tree and went into the pond.

"Very rarely do we go out that way to eat lunch," said Officer K. De La Cruz.

She said she and Officer A.M. Acker just happened to be near the area when they heard the call.

Officer E.E. Ortiz happened to be responded to a 911 call hang up nearby.

All three arrived on scene and quickly saw no other option than to jump in.

"We were all wearing what we're wearing now and this stuff weighs about 30-35 pounds, you're sinking," said Officer Ortiz. "The mud was like quicksand."

"And the thing is too, is that there was a car seat in there so we were all like where's the baby?" said Officer De La Cruz.

Thankfully there was no baby inside of the sinking car but there was also no luxury of time so the officers pulled open the car doors.

"That's when the water really started coming in," said Officer De La Cruz.

"I can remember the expression on their faces," said Officer Ortiz.

At that point they said panic started to set in and the rescue became more challenging. Officer Ortiz said the woman he was helping didn't seem to know how to swim and held on to him.

"She kept on sinking me under water and I remember sinking all the way to the bottom trying push back up but the mud was acting as like suction," said Ortiz. "She's trying to stay afloat. She's trying to keep her head above water. She sunk my head in. I remember looking up and I see the surface of the water, and I could see the sun and the splashing."

"Ortiz handed her off to me and I remember having to bounce, to jump every time I took a breath," recalled Officer Acker.

They said the water was at least eight feet deep and well over their heads. Plus their gear was weighing them down.

"It was like an anchor," said Officer Acker.

Also in the mix was a man named David Plitt. He is applying to become a Durham police officer and was doing a ride along that day with Officer De La Cruz.

"He had no idea what he had been dispatched to," said Officer De La Cruz.

Still, without hesitation, they said Plitt jumped right into the pond, grabbed one of the women and swam her to safety.

Once everyone was pulled out the car was almost under water.

"Maybe five minutes after we were out of the water the only thing you could see were the tail lights and license plate," said Acker.
The rescue happened mainly on instinct. All three officers say water rescues aren't something they're trained to do.

"If you asked me if this was a likely scenario in Durham, I would say no not really," said Officer Ortiz.

While the officers can't recall ever being in a similar situation, Officer De La Cruz was just recently given an award for saving a life.

She said last year she responded to a call of a man who had overdosed on heroin. She said he was unresponsive and was already turning blue. Thanks to her efforts, he survived.

As for the women in Wednesday's ordeal, they walked away without injury.

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