SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. — A Siskiyou County man survived inside a car for nearly five hours after he crashed into the Klamath River Wednesday morning.
His incredible story of survival stunned those on scene including a dive team commander who helped pull his car from the water saving his life.
“He opened his door…and the guy looked at him and told him ‘help me’ and my deputy goes oh my lord, there’s somebody alive,” said Sergeant Robert Giannini, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s an incredible rescue… that first responders are still trying to wrap their heads around.
“I’m still in disbelief that he was still alive,” said Sergeant Giannini.
It happened on Wednesday morning along California State Route 96 in Siskiyou County. California Highway Patrol says it got a 911 call shortly before 5:30 in the morning.
“We had officers arriving in the area just before 6 a.m., said Officer Shawn Gordon, California Highway Patrol. “The sheriff’s dive team was also quick to respond.”
Sergeant Giannini, Dive Team Commander of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, was one of the first to arrive.
“I was able to keep my head above water to get to the vehicle,” said Sergeant Giannini.
He says he dove into the water, got on the undercarriage of the car, and connected a cord to the axel.
“It was very cold… and I was only in for a few seconds,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine being in for five hours.”
A tow truck then lifted the car up to the road. He says airbags were blocking the windows, so they couldn’t see anyone inside.
“It was a deputy that opened that door,” he said. “And as soon as he opened the door and moved that curtain, he saw the guy just look at him, turn his head and looked at him… and saw that he was alive and started calling for help.”
The driver, 28-year-old Michael Finn, told first responders he thinks he crashed into the water sometime around 3:00 in the morning and survived by breathing from an air pocket inside his car.
Sergeant Giannini says his incredible story of survival came as a shock to everyone.
“I believe he just had the will to survive,” he said. “And people always say that the more that you believe you can survive… the better chance you have.”
The hospital says Finn was discharged on Thursday.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia. She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.