Good Samaritans Help Rescue Athens Woman After Her Car Was Swept Away

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Saying she did a fair amount of praying, Wendy Lybarger was also determined that "this was not the end."

Friday, the Waterloo Twp. Volunteer Fire Department, with the help of a few good Samaritans, rescued Lybarger, 52, of Athens, from high water after her car was carried by current off the road into a nearby creek.

In an interview with The Athens Messenger Monday, Lybarger said she was on her way to meet a friend at Old Man's Cave around noon when she decided to take the scenic route on Route 56. She said she noticed water on the road and slowed down but decided to try her luck as she could still see the painted lines on the road and surmised that the water wasn't too deep.

However, as she continued in, she realized that the current was too strong and tried to reverse her way out of water. At that point, she said she could feel the water pushing the car and moments later the car was being carried over a nearby bank and into the creek.

Lybarger said she tried to stop the car or correct its steering but it was no use. The car floated down the creek until it became lodged on the opposite bank with the nose of the vehicle submerged and the rear lifted into the air.

Water began making it's way into the car, covering Lybarger's feet. She was unable to open the doors due to the water pressure but looked up to see her salvation in the form of the sunroof. She tried the ignition and fortunately there was enough juice left to get the sunroof open. Lybarger climbed out of the car, slid down the windshield and began her trek through the water, trying to make it to dry land.

Due to her location, it was nearly impossible for passersby to see her or the car and her cell phone had no service. Lybarger said she made her way through water that was at times waist deep to a point where a tree trunk was raised enough to the point that she was able to use it to get most of her body out of the frigid water.

Several cars passed by the area but it wasn't until a truck driver slowed to make his way through the flooded road that Lybarger's presence was noticed. A second truck also stopped and the two told Lybarger they were going to get help.

The truck drivers were able to find a paddle boat. At this point, firefighters were on scene as were medical personnel. A rope was tied to the boat and rescuers paddled out to Lybarger.

After more than an hour in the water, Lybarger was finally back on dry land and was being examined by medics. She was transported to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital as a precaution. Lybarger said her body temperature had dropped to 95.6 degrees and that the medics took great care of her.

Lybarger told The Messenger she knows she thanked her rescuers at the time but that she didn't get their names.

Waterloo Twp. Fire Chief Craig Churchheus said that area of Route 56 is notoriously known for easy flooding. He said Lybarger's car was carried at least 100 yards from the road and added that he thought the name of one of the good Samaritans is nearby resident Jeff Carter. The Messenger was unable to make contact with Carter.

Churchheus said driving through any water is dangerous as it can take, in some cases, less than 18 inches of water to float a car.

"You just never know," Churchheus cautioned. "When you can't see the road, it's dangerous and it's just not worth it."

Sgt. Thomas Holbert, of the Athens Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said a sign had been erected on the road warning of the high water but that it had been blown over by high winds. He said no citations were issued.

"I just want to say how thankful I am for their work," Lybarger said of her rescuers. "To the two men who made that initial stop and went to get help, I'm so thankful that they had presence enough to see me through the trees as they were driving along. I'm extremely grateful."

Lybarger assumes her car is totaled but happily said that her next vehicle will definitely have a sunroof.