Good Samaritan rescues woman from flooded car in Maitland

John Hannigan was in the right place at the right time April 22.

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  • | 12:22 a.m. April 27, 2018
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Of all the things John Hannigan had planned for Sunday, rescuing a woman from her flooded car was not one of them. But as rains swept through the area April 22, Hannigan found himself in such a position as he approached a flooded section of road on South Orlando Avenue in Maitland.

As he and his family sat at the edge of the large pool of water by the Rev. Kenneth Crossman Bridge — debating on driving his big Ford Expedition through — another car rolled into the water before stopping. The car had stalled out.

“I went through it, and I looked at her face, and she was looking at her cell phone and you could tell she did not know what to do,” Hannigan said. “So I said to my wife, ‘I’m going to get out and do something.’”

Although his wife was wary of him getting out because of all the inherent dangers, Hannigan made the move.

Emptying his pockets, Hannigan waded through the water, which already was up to his waist when he got to the woman’s car. Hannigan stands at 6-foot-5.

“It would have been to the bottom part of her window seals if it hadn’t been floating — it was floating at that point,” Hannigan said. “Water was coming in at the floorboard, and her windows were up. … I said, ‘You need to roll your window down,’ so she put her key in the ignition and thank God it could roll down, because I was thinking I may have to break her window.”

After the woman asked about towing her car out, which Hannigan told her wasn’t possible because her vehicle was totaled, Hannigan got the woman to get whatever important items she could.

From there, Hannigan was able to pull her out  through the window and get her to safety. Luckily neither her, nor the person that was in another car — who escaped — were injured.

It was during the final stage of the rescue that Hannigan — as well as his wife, Melissa, a therapist — were able to talk with the woman, who was breaking down as she had dealt with a lot over the past couple of days.

“What’s really sad is that someone in her family had died a few days ago, so she just starts crying,” Hannigan said. “I was learning all kinds of things about her, because I just kept asking her questions to keep her talking while we were walking away from her car.”

Following the arrival of the Maitland Police Department and Fire Rescue, Hannigan and the woman he saved exchanged numbers as a means of keeping in touch — so that Hannigan could check in on her.

The rescue, and the new friendship that blossomed from the experience, came about as a total accident.

The Hannigans — John, Melissa and their four children — are Jacksonville residents who happened to be on their way to eat after Melissa had participated in the half-marathon at Disney that Sunday morning. 

As fans of the Disney parks, Hannigan said his family makes frequent trips to Orlando every month, so they know the route well.

“I don’t ever get lost — ever,” Hannigan said. “So I had looked at the map and knew I had to get off on Colonial, and 10 minutes later I was like, ‘I need to look at the map,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh I passed that 10 minutes ago,’ so I way overshot. So I got off on Maitland and figured I’d go right down 17/92 — no big deal,” he said.

The plan was to then just do a U-turn and get back on the highway, but that was before Hannigan noticed heavy traffic caused by multiple accidents on Interstate 4. So instead, Hannigan and his family continued down 17/92, where they came across the flooded section of road.

Despite the inconveniences of getting misplaced, for Hannigan and his church-going family, the chance encounter that came on Sunday is more than just luck.

“I truly believe that God put us there,” Hannigan said. “All the things that would have normally run through my head — none of that (happened). It was just like, ‘This girl is in trouble,’ and, ‘What if this were my daughter? What would I want done? That’s what I’m going to do.’

“I was at the right place at the right time,” he said.


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