Couple trapped in sinking SUV: “It was like being in a tomb”

Posted at 10:57 PM, Aug 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-29 22:57:12-04

Courtney Jones was at a baseball field behind Mallory Elementary School in Hampton when she spotted something unusual in the flooded ditch nearby.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Jones.

An SUV was almost completely submerged.  Only the back end was still sticking out of the water. Then she realized there were people trapped inside.

That couple was Deborah and James Pearson. Both said it was like being inside a tomb.

“We only had just about six inches [left] to keep our head up,” said Deborah.

The couple had been driving to a relative’s house Tuesday night to help save him from the flooding around his house.  On the way, the fast-flowing water already covering the road picked up their SUV and swept it into a flooded ditch.

James tried to punch through the glass but was unable to break through.

“He was comforting me and he gave me a kiss and told me that if something happened we were together, we'd just die together, but also he was letting me know that some kind of way we were going to get out of that situation,” said Deborah.

Fortunately, help came just in time.  All that pounding on the glass is what got Jones’s attention.  She yelled for neighbors to help and Jesie Joyner jumped into action.

After getting a hammer, he swam out to the couple.  “I got on the back of the vehicle and just hit it one time and the glass just fell right out,” said Joyner.

With Deborah unable to swim, James pulled her to safety.  Others, all strangers, quickly provided them with a blanket and shoes once they were out of the ditch.

The Pearsons said they are thankful for everyone who was there that day, especially Joyner.

"[He] will always be our angel on this earth,” Deborah said.