How I spent my summer vacation
by The Press and Standard | August 1, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: July 31, 2019 at 9:22 am
When Orange County, Fla. Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Robert Izzo finally got a chance to introduce himself to Wade Marvin the evening of July 12, the disheveled Walterboro police chief had already made a good impression.
“He was a little dirty, wet and smelled of gasoline but he definitely had made a difference,” Izzo explained.
July 12 was the first full day of a weekend vacation for the Marvin family.
Marvin and his family spent the day at a theme park and then went out to dinner. They were on an I-95 off ramp at about 8:30 p.m., heading back to their hotel, when Marvin saw a motorist on the nearby on ramp pull over and exit his vehicle.
His eyes went back to the roadway; his wife Meagan continued looking back toward the stopped car. She told Wade that there was a car off the roadway, overturned on its roof. He thinks the car crashed happened just seconds before they arrived in the area.
Marvin pulled his vehicle over. Meagan echoed the thoughts already going through the chief’s head, “You have to go.”
He got out of the car and jogged back to the crash site.
Three or four people were out of their vehicles. Marvin asked if 911 had been called, a woman said she was on the cell phone with the emergency dispatchers.
Marvin then asked if they had checked to see if anyone was in the car. They hadn’t.
Marvin went to the overturned vehicle and looked through a broken window, using the light on his cell phone for illumination.
He spotted a woman hanging upside down inside the car, being held in place by her seatbelt. Her head was in the water. She was unconscious and did not appear to be breathing. Izzo said Marvin told firefighters he was initially unsure if the female driver was alive or dead. “Then he noticed the bubbles,” Izzo added. “The water was maybe a foot deep, but that is significant enough when you are hanging up side down in it.”
Marvin crawled through the broken passenger window, cutting himself on some of the glass fragments in the process. He lifted her head out of the water; she remained unconscious and still was not breathing.
Marvin, continuing to hold her head out of the water, looked in the rear seat and spotted an empty child seat. “I became concerned.” But the woman was alone when she wrecked.
He was also concerned about the heavy odor of gasoline inside the vehicle. He said it was so potent, he was beginning to be affected by the fumes.
Then the woman gasped and water came out of her mouth and nose. But she remained unconscious.
Just before the safety forces arrived on scene, the woman regained consciousness but was disoriented. She was pinching her nose, saying she was going to drown.
He told her he wasn’t going to stop holding her head out of the water until help arrived. Marvin said he prayed with the woman and she began to calm herself.
With help arriving on the scene, Marvin backed his way out of the car. The chief estimates he held the woman’s head out of the water for approximately 15 minutes.
Izzo said the initial call to the emergency dispatch center reported that a car went off of I-4, right outside of Disney World. After leaving the roadway, the motor vehicle overturned and was sitting on its roof in about a foot of standing water in a swampy area that had accumulated water from a week of heavy rains.
The female driver was trapped inside the vehicle and someone was holding the victim’s head out of the water, Izzo said the dispatchers were told. That someone was Marvin.
Firefighter-paramedics quickly freed her and transported her to a medical facility for treatment of minor injuries.
“I would say his quick response and doing what he did probably saved this lady’s life,” Izzo said. “He was probably the guardian angel that night that kept her alive.”
It also demonstrated, Izzo added, for police and firemen “even when they are on vacation are never really on vacation. There is no such thing in our minds.”
Orange County Fire Rescue Chief James Fitzgerald sent a letter of commendation to Walterboro Mayor Bill Young, saluting Marvin’s heroic actions that rainy Florida night.
Dear Mayor Young:
I would like to commend Walterboro Police Chief Wade Marvin for his lifesaving actions in Orange County, Florida on July 12, 2019. It is my understanding that Chief Marvin, along with his family, were visiting the Orlando area when he came upon a serious vehicle crash.
On July 12, 2019, Orange County Fire Rescue was dispatched to a call regarding an auto accident with heavy entrapment. An SUV had overturned and landed upside down in a small body of water. While the water level was not deep in terms of water rescue, it was enough that the patient’s head did not clear the waterline.
The 911 caller indicated that the driver was unresponsive and trapped inside. There was a gas odor coming from the vehicle, and a bystander was on scene holding the patient’s head above water. Orange County Fire Rescue crews arrived on scene within minutes where they extricated the driver. She was transported to a local trauma center and was expected to recover.
It was later determined the bystander on scene was Wade Marvin, Police Chief of Walterboro, South Carolina. His actions that day represent the very best qualities of a first responder, one who takes an oath to serve and protect. This call is a vivid reminder that those who choose to serve in public safety occupations are never truly off-duty.
Orange County welcomes 500,000+ visitors on any given day; how very reassuring that many of these guests are also some of the finest men and women who serve not only their community, but oftentimes whatever community they happen to be in when the need arises.
On behalf of the crews on scene that day, please give my sincere appreciation to Chief Marvin. Without his assistance, we might have experienced a completely different outcome.
James M. Fitzgerald/Fire Chief
Winer Park, Fla.