Two UC Santa Barbara students and several others helped save the lives of three men Monday afternoon after one of the students saw a vehicle crash into a canal through their rear-view mirror near Highway 41 and Newton Avenue, about 13 miles southwest of Lemoore.
The California Highway Patrol said around 4:19 p.m., Goleta residents Emily Elmerick and Sydney Antles, both 19, were traveling to Fresno on Highway 41 when they saw a pickup truck submerge into the water and flip upside down.
“When my friend said, ‘Oh my gosh,’ I knew by the tone of her voice that something bad had happened,” Antles said. “By the time I turned around, I could see the truck hit the water.”
The two students were about 50 yards away when they stopped the car and Antles took off sprinting toward the accident.
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Without hesitation, Antles dove into the cold, mucky water that ranged from three to six feet deep to save the drowning men while Elmerick called 911. For Antles, who had been rescued from a bad accident last year, plunging into the water was both an act of heroism, and a debt repaid.
“The water was almost up to my neck at one point as I tried to get through that mud,” Antles said. “The whole car was upside down, but when I reached the door, I could hear people yelling, and I was so thankful.”
It wasn’t long before more cars pulled over and about eight others jumped into the water to help flip over the truck. One of the witnesses smashed the truck’s window, while they pulled out the two passengers and worked to rescue the driver, who was pinned inside the truck, said authorities.
“I could see his feet, but he was not moving,” she said. “I told them I knew CPR, and when they were able to get him out, they handed him over to me.”
She could feel a faint pulse, as he began to regain consciousness on his own.
By the time authorities arrived, the CHP said, the victims were out of the water. The unidentified men suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital.
The CHP said if it wasn’t for the courage of Elmerick and Antles and the others, the victims would have died.
Both women are students at University of California, Santa Barbara, from the Santa Ynez Valley. Antles, who is a journalism major at the university, was on her way to Fresno to visit a friend.
Antles’ mother, Nicole Antles of Solvang, said she wasn’t surprised to hear that her daughter jumped into the canal to try to help, given that Sydney had survived her own near-tragic car crash in 2015.
“That is the kind of person that she is,” said Nicole Antles. “She has incredible compassion for other people. And I am extremely proud of her.”
Sydney Antles was driving a Jeep Patriot with two passengers in Santa Ynez in November 2015 when she was broadsided by a Dodge truck. The crash sent Antles and her passengers to the hospital with major and minor injuries. Antles was in critical care for five days and spent three months in a hospital bed recuperating at home.
“The doctors gave her a slim chance of ever walking again,” her mother said. “But she did it.”
Sydney Antles said she thought about her own accident as she made the decision to stop and help and how grateful she was for the rescue workers that took care of her.
“I knew there would be a moment where I could do the same for someone else and grabbed hold of that opportunity,” she said. “I wanted to be part of what people had done for me.”
CHP officials said Tuesday that they are working on finding out who was involved in the rescue to give them formal recognition.