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A firefighter dive into 40-degree cold water to save a woman's life

A woman trapped in an upside-down car underwater on the Ebey Island early in the morning and got her life saved by Lake Stevens Fire Department heroes.

EVERETT, Wash. — Around five-thirty in the morning, two Lake Stevens Fire Department heroes were called to a car accident down on the Ebey Island -- which is the area between Lake Stevens and Everett. “Kind of the sloughs run through there,” said Christopher Harrott.

A car was on its roof in a ditch full of water when both gentlemen rolled up. “I felt that if there was someone in there, it was going to be a body recovery,” recalled Captain Pat Cook.

But then they heard a woman screaming from inside the car. There’s somebody alive in the car underwater. Cook and Harrott instantly jump jumped into action. They brainstorming how to save this woman's life.

“In that ditch, you probably had a hundred fifty-two hundred years experience of vehicle extrication. But we don't practice in the water,” said Cook. But Chris Harrott had just been through rescue swimmer training. He dove into the 40-degree water.

“The cold was so cold that it made your skin burn. And it was really hard to hold my breath at first,” shared Harrott. The car was upside down. The front of the car, the engine side tipped down a little bit, and there was an air pocket near the back seats. Fortunately, the lady found her way there. “It's just I mean, the chance of that are so small,” added Harrot.

The dangerously cold water meant he couldn't hold his breath for long. But he kept going back. Harrott felt that she was kicking and screaming when he dived into the water.

Someone suggested Harrott try putting on one of a firefighter masks so he could stay under longer. It's what firefighters wear when going into the fire, but not usually water. “It worked. It is a huge help,” said Harrott.

Harrott was able to locate her, and also get her untangled. So, it was a quick and easy job of getting her out of the vehicle when they did get the car door opened up. 

The young woman had hypothermia but was eventually fine. She and her family came to the fire station to thank Chris Harrott and all of the heroes who refused to give up on her - come cold or high water.

“He did an outstanding job of maintaining his composure and his professionalism. And we had a positive outcome,” said Cook.

RELATED: When panic set in, this 9-1-1 operator was a mother's lifeline

About the 2020 Snohomish County Red Cross Courage in Action Hero Award 

"Every day at the American Red Cross, we see first-hand the remarkable deeds of everyday heroes. Their stories inspire and remind us to never doubt the impact an individual can make in the lives of others."  

The next Snohomish County Heroes Breakfast is scheduled for December 10, 2020.

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