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Flooding: Sinking car traps two women

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Scott Hurston walked into the gym at HealthPoint around 6 p.m. last Wednesday to start his workout. He was going to start with shoulders and legs.

Instead of his usual workout, he pulled two women from a car as it sank into a stormwater retention pond outside HealthPoint that had overflowed in a torrential rainstorm.

“I’m just a normal guy,” said Hurston, a senior vice president with Merrill Lynch at Pawleys Island. “I never dreamed that something like that would happen.”

Neither did Mary Ann Godlewski and Kathy Eagen, two Heritage Plantation residents who said they nearly drowned in Godlewski’s Toyota Corolla.

“We were pretty darn close to not making it,” Godlewski said.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Eagen said. “I can’t believe a car would fill up with water that fast.”

It wasn’t raining hard when they left Heritage Plantation headed for a Zumba class at HealthPoint. But by the time they reached Litchfield, the water on Highway 17 was halfway up the tires of the small, white sedan.

The car stalled as they reached the parking lot. They went inside and found out the class was cancelled. Eagen’s daughter, Jamie, met them and they waited for a break in the rain to start home.

Jamie Eagen waited to make sure Godlewski’s car would start, and they talked about riding together, but Jamie ended up following in her car.

As Godlewski drove out of HealthPoint, her car stalled and without power steering rolled toward the bank of the swollen pond.

“You couldn’t see the pond,” she said, because the area was flooded.

The car didn’t stop. The women looked at each other and realized it was floating and sliding along toward deeper water.

Eagen heard her daughter screaming for her to open the door.

“I pushed the door. It opened about a foot,” Eagen said.

Water rushed in and forced it shut.

The front end of the car sank lower. “There was water coming through the floorboard,” Godlewski said.

Eagen yelled they needed to get in the back seat. “I don’t even remember taking my seatbelt off,” she said.

The screamed and pounded on the windows, but had nothing to break the glass. “We had an umbrella,” Eagen said.

Jamie Eagen had run into HealthPoint for help. “Mom, I thought you were dead,” she told her mother. “I was like a crazy woman.”

There was water across the road when Hurston turned off Highway 17 into HealthPoint after work. His Infiniti G35 sits low to the ground, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to drive through.

The area received 6.5 inches of rain over two days, according to the Georgetown County Water and Sewer District. It was still raining when Hurston arrived at HealthPoint. A wall of windows overlooks the retention pond between the gym and Highway 17.

He hadn’t started his workout when he saw the car go into the water. He went out a side door that leads to an area between two retention ponds. He sank into chest-deep water.

“This was not good,” he said.

He swam across to the driveway side of the pond and made his way toward the car. Alerted by Jamie Eagen, other people arrived from the building, including staff.

Hurston found the women in the back seat. “They couldn’t open the back door,” he said.

He was in neck-deep water as he pulled on the door.

“There was a lot of pressure from the water. I grabbed it and kind of ripped it open,” he said.

Kathy Eagen was the first one out. “I came out floating,” she said.

She floated on her back and people pulled her to the shallow water. Godlewski followed “just before the whole thing went under,” Hurston said. “Only about 6 inches of bumper was showing.”

The women were out before Midway Fire and Rescue arrived. They declined to be treated at the hospital, although they later realized they were in shock.

“We were actually freezing,” Eagen said. “We were shaking to death.”

They were wrapped in towels and dry clothes. Both women said a couple of sleepless nights followed the rescue.

“I go to bed at night and I can see me in that car with the water coming up,” Eagen said.

The thought that her daughter could have been trapped in the car with them and not available to call for help also lingers.

“It was not a difficult rescue. It was just one of those things,” Hurston said. “God put me in the right place at the right time.”

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