SUFFOLK, Va. - Reduced to a mangled mess — transformed from a pickup truck carrying Derby Brackett, her husband, Doug, and their two dogs.
Derby remembers riding down Highway 58 and then, suddenly, "As we got onto 58, Doug looked at me and said, 'I can't see!' No warning - nothing - and I went, 'OK,' and I went to reach for the steering whee,l and he was gone."
He was having a medical emergency, and they crashed through trees landing in a canal. Bystanders had stopped and got in the water trying to help Derby, who was trapped, keep her head above water.
There were so many challenges in this rescue. For starters, this was all unfolding on busy Highway 58. Their pickup went off the roadway into a wooded area, cutting through a number of trees and then landed in a ditch that was filled with water.
Derby's husband was able to get out with the help of bystanders, but Derby was pinned inside that submerged truck, her armed amputated from the impact of the crash.
Suffolk Firefighter Manny Franco knew he had to act fast.
"[The] plan of action was to get in the water as quick as possible. [We] knew we had to get on a tourniquet on the victim and then try to figure out how we were going to start our extrication," Manny said.
The other big challenge, says Firefighter Corey Stephens, was that the water in the canal was fairly deep.
"I couldn't touch the bottom. I was... swimming. I couldn't touch the bottom."
Plus, it was a cold March day last year when this rescue went down. Manny remembers it well.
"When I hit the water, I recognized right away it was cold. But the first thing that went through my mind is, 'If I'm cold, you know, she's possibly been in there already for 10 minutes already. She's a lot colder than me, so we gotta work quickly.'"
So, they started applying a tourniquet to Derby to stop the flow of blood from her arm amputated from the crash.
"So, I let the patient know that this is what I was going to do, because that in and of itself is painful. She already had a lot of injuries and was in quite a lot of pain."
Once that was taken care of, another challenge, says Corey, was the lack of visibility in using special equipment to help free her.
"Typically, when we do something like this, we're looking at what we're doing. It's right there, but here you just couldn't see what we were doing, so we had to feel where was the best place to put our tool was."
And that lack of visibility made using that heavy-duty tool, known as the "jaws of life," very risky.
"The hydraulic spreaders could cause significant damage to her if they were to capture any part of her limbs in there, and we knew we had to spread the dash, obviously, away from her legs."
They were able to successfully free her and stress that this successful rescue was a team effort.
Suffolk Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Demitri Wilson praises the actions of these two.
"I can tell you they are top-notch firefighters in our department. They're an example of why our department and many fire services across the country are so great - these are the type of people coming to help you," Chief Wilson said.
Corey says it's what firefighters do.
"Just doing my job - that's what we all signed up to do, and you know that could happen every day you walk into work."
For those reasons, News 3 presented Corey and Manny with a News 3 Everyday Hero award, along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.
To nominate someone for an Everyday Hero Award, click here.