Good Samaritans rescue man from car in pond

The rescuers had the 68-year-old driver, Ronald Register, at the bank of the pond when emergency personnel arrived. He was reported in good condition at Putnam County Medical Center. (Palatka Police Department photo)

PALATKA, Fla. – When a man accidentally drove his car into a retention pond by the Walmart on Monday afternoon, two men jumped into the water and swam to the sinking vehicle. According to the Palatka Police Department, they freed the 68-year-old driver from his seat belt, got him out of the vehicle and pulled him to shore.

Witnesses said a 2002 Mercury at about 1 p.m. in the parking lot on U.S. 19 slowed, then accelerated quickly, then slowed, then accelerated quickly again, went over a curb, through a fence and into the pond -- making it about 25 feet into the water before it started taking on water.

Bystanders alerted store personnel and emergency services. Police say Curtis Smith, 28, and at several others ran into the pond and swam to the vehicle, finding the driver, later identified as Ronald Register, trapped and in danger of drowning.

Brittani Wilson was another one of the Samaritans who helped Register.

"Something just came over me and it's really weird feeling to try to explain. Really all I was thinking about was getting this man out of the car," said Wilson. "Also, was there anyone else in the car? Was there children? Anything. By the time we got down here, the old man was already head first into the water."

Rosales Perez was another one of the witnesses who said she saw the Register's window was open, making it easier to break him free.

"He seemed like he was just in a daze by what happened. He was just as shocked as everyone else," said Perez. "He laid down with this hands behind his head and stayed there on the grass until help came."

The bystanders freed him, brought him to the shore and waited for emergency personnel to arrive.

Register, of Hawthorne, was transported to the Putnam Community Medical Center, which police say he is believed to be in good condition.

The accident remains under investigation by Palatka police. The rescuers at witnesses agree they're just thankful to have been able to help.

"I was always raised to help someone if I have the ability to do so," said Wilson. "I think everyone should be like that."