Strangers Unite To Save Twins
MIAMI (AP) - For Claudia Cox and her 22-month-old twins, a weekend vacation nearly ended in tragedy before it had even begun.
Ms. Cox, her infants and two friends were driving from Miami to Naples across ``Alligator Alley'' - a highway cutting through the Everglades bordered by canals teeming with gators and other wildlife - when the right front tire on their car exploded.
The four-door car careened out of control, smashed through a chain-link fence and flipped, landing upside down in a canal.
Within seconds, a torrent of murky water filled the car.
``The only thing going through my mind was 'Oh God, my babies,''' said Ms. Cox, a 23-year-old Miami resident.
The twins, Kendia and Kenisha, were strapped to their child seats, trapped underwater.
Guy Burnett, his wife Hanna, and their two children also were headed west on Alligator Alley that Sunday, June 13, for a day trip to Naples.
Burnett, a former lifeguard, saw people standing on the side of the highway and thought they were just looking at an alligator.
Then he saw the car, its tires and a sliver of the chassis breaking the surface of the water.
After nearly five minutes underwater, one of the passengers, Simone Hyatt, emerged from the canal and staggered onto the bank. Swallowing water and struggling upside down in the front passenger seat, she had managed to open the door.
The car's driver, Tashana Brown, followed her out.
Another minute passed before Ms. Cox surfaced, screaming, ``My babies! My babies!''
Kendia and Kenisha had been underwater for nearly six minutes.
Burnett heard the mother's pleas and dove into the canal. Two other men who had stopped also dove in.
After first struggling with one of the front doors, Burnett managed to open the rear passenger door, reaching underneath and upward through the half-open window to reach the door's latch.
``I got the door open, but we couldn't see the babies,'' he said. ``They were completely underwater.''
Burnett and one of the other men went back under and inside the car and frantically pulled at the child seat holding Kenisha.
``We could see her ... she was flapping around like a rag doll,'' Burnett said.
The two men pulled Kenisha out in a little over a minute. She was not breathing. Her face was bruised, her body stiff.
Burnett stayed in the water to go after Kendia while the two other men carried Kenisha to shore. Ms. Brown, a flight attendant, performed CPR on the girl.
Going on seven minutes now, Kendia remained underwater, strapped in her seat.
Burnett blindly prodded inside the car, trying to feel for the other girl. Frustrated, he surfaced and yelled for a knife to cut through seat belt straps, then dove in again without waiting for one.
He managed to find the latch for Kendia's seat and pulled her out.
Kenisha had already begun breathing and Ms. Brown began to perform CPR on Kendia, before Burnett intervened.
``I popped her neck up so I could get some air into her,'' Burnett said. ``I felt for her pulse and there wasn't anything.''
Burnett placed Kendia on her side and pressed on her belly, pushing water out. He kept up the CPR until he detected her pulse and saw her gasp for air.
``I was just saying 'Come on baby, breathe','' said Burnett, 27, of Plantation. ``I'm just glad I was there.''
The infants were airlifted to a hospital in Naples and released the next day. Still vacationing in Naples last week, Ms. Cox said her children were being treated for an ear infection, but were well.
``We were singing 'Jesus Is Real' (in the car),'' she said. ``I guess I have to say that's what saved our lives. That and the guys that were there.''