Tragedy often brings out the best in people and that was what happened in Fishers Thursday. An SUV hit a slick patch and broke through a fence before sliding into the freezing water below. Thankfully everyone was okay, thanks to quick thinking and people willing to help.
It is Carrie Mattingly’s worst fear - “For me to actually live this is unbelievable to me,” said Mattingly.
Trapped in a car with her 5-year-old daughter Ava as it was sinking under water. “I can not get images out of my mind already, I just do not know what it is going to be like for her,” said Mattingly.
The two were headed home from the gym when they hit a slick patch on 116th Street in Fishers. The car started spinning.
“The next thing I know is that we crash through this white fence and we are bumping and bumping and then all of a sudden we come to a stop,” said Mattingly. “I was like, ‘thank God.” Then I look down and realize we are in water.”
That water slowly started to invade the Mattingly’s SUV. “It was colder than anything I have ever felt,” said Mattingly. “Just imagine being submerged in snow I guess. It was just an unbelievable. It was breath-taking, it was paralyzing.”
At that moment, Mattingly feared the worst. “I said, ‘that is it, we are doomed.’ No one is going to be able to get in this water,” said Mattingly.
Carrie remembered something she learned on a TV show. She rolled down the cars windows and told Ava to unbuckle her seatbelt.
“I just kept telling my daughter to stay calm, we are going to be okay, and we are calm,” said Mattingly. “Then I realized the water was coming in a little bit more quickly, now it is up to my knees, okay now it is up to my waist. I thought, ‘we have got to get out of here.’”
Carrie and Ava climbed out the drivers side window. About that time, Jeff Oliver and some co-workers were driving by. “The guy who was driving said that he saw a car in the water, so we turned around and went back to the scene,” said Jeff Oliver.
Oliver ran to the shore, got his work boots off and dove in. He got about half way, but the water was too cold. He swam back to where he could touch, then he went back for the two who were stranded. “I don’t know what it takes, I just know you can not sit there and watch someone die,” said Oliver. “You have got to try and help as much as you can.”
Oliver was able to make it out to Ava.
“I was able to swim and grab her hand and pull her towards me and swim a little more and pull her along until we got to the shore where there were multiple people there that were able to help,” said Oliver.
As Oliver swam out to the car, other people jumped into the water. People like Ray Rice. “From when I got there to when the truck sank, it was less than two minutes,” said Rice.
The people in the water made a human chain, they passed the 5-year-old to the bank.
”They started swimming towards the shore and they went down and that was when the man in the water started swimming towards them they popped back up and the mom started swimming towards shore,” said Rice.
Jeff Oliver, the man in the water, was having trouble of his own. “I was to the point where I could not move anymore, someone had to assist me out of the water,” said Oliver.
Oliver ended up in the same ambulance as Carrie and Ava Mattingly, but he was still worried about the two. “You know you made it there to the shore, but you are not so sure they are not injured,” said Oliver. Then, a moment Jeff will never forget, the little 5-year-old, pining for her favorite Christmas present her IPOD that she had to leave behind in the sinking SUV.
“That was the first thing that she said,” Oliver. “Made my day that she was talking and she seemed to be doing pretty good.”
What made the story even sweeter was a life-saving coincidence. Jeff Oliver knows Carrie Mattingly’s husband.
Jeff Oliver:”Never met his daughter or his wife”
Joe LePage: “Until today?”
Jeff Oliver: “Until today.”
“The fact that it was a friend of my husband’s,” said Mattingly. “How does that happen?”
Jeff Oliver dove into freezing cold waters to save two people he did not even know at the time. He risked his life, but he does not accept the hero title. “No, any man would have jumped out into the water to save a family, so I am definitely no hero,” said Oliver.
Oliver said there was only one hero in this ordeal, the woman whose quick thinking paid off and saved two lives.
“That is all I can think about right now, how did we survive that? How did that happen? Thank God we did and wow, I need to make it to church every Sunday,” said Mattingly.
Carrie Mattingly has only minor bruises after her brush with death. She said what happened has changed her forever, it has given her a new appreciation for her family and life in general.