A Newport man narrowly escaped a watery grave this weekend after his car rolled upside down into the Pend Oreille River near the Idaho state line and he became trapped.
Ned R. Florea, 20, wiggled his way to the trunk of the 2003 Hyundai Tiburon and found a pocket of air that kept him alive as rescue crews and a tow-truck driver frantically worked to get him out, authorities said Sunday.
According to the Idaho State Police, the crash occurred at 11:17 p.m. Saturday on LeClerc Road near the intersection with Langille Canyon Road north of Oldtown. The car left the roadway, went down an embankment and plunged upside down into the water. A passenger, 18-year-old Keefer T. Peterson, was able to escape, but Florea was trapped.
Jerry Walker, owner of Bill’s Auto and Towing in Oldtown, got the call four minutes after the crash. “They told me to hurry,” Walker said. “When I got there, there were 10 guys in the water trying to get the vehicle open.”
The Hyundai’s rear bumper and its tail lights were the only parts of the car above the water line. Firefighters, paramedics and police officers waded far enough to reach the car, but they could not open the doors using pry bars, Walker said.
“I hooked up and I had to pull the car probably 20 feet closer to shore so they could get the Jaws of Life to get him out,” Walker said. “When he came out he was alert. He was frozen, but alert. He was very lucky.”
Florea was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane where he remained Sunday in satisfactory condition.
Alcohol “appears” to have contributed to the crash, which remains under investigation, according to the state police.