HELENA — A woman who was saved by passing motorists as her vehicle sank in floodwaters off a rural Montana highway said Friday that her rescuers’ heroics were a miracle.
April Seubert, 61, recounted Tuesday night’s dramatic rescue that was captured in a video by Matt McCollam, whose brother Seth swam into the frigid, rushing water to retrieve her from the roof of her small sport-utility vehicle.
“Having him grab me was just a miracle,” Seubert said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from her home in Shelby in northern Montana.
Seubert said she didn’t see three signs warning of water on the roadway. She was going at least 60 mph when her vehicle hit a patch of water about a foot deep. She spun off the highway into an area between the road and railroad tracks where water was 5 feet (1.52 meters) deep, nearly covering the windows.
Much of northern Montana is experiencing flooding as near-record snowfall from the winter rapidly melts in the warming spring temperatures.
Seubert said she couldn’t open the driver’s side door, but managed to open the passenger window. She scrambled onto the roof after grabbing her phone.
The water was rushing just inches below her heels and rising, and the vehicle was slowly moving in the current. She called her husband, but he was 30 minutes away.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to make it, I’m going to have to swim,'” Seubert said.
But she had become disoriented in the dark and didn’t know where the road was. She also was worried that the current would overwhelm her if she tried to swim.
After about five minutes on the roof, she saw headlights and started yelling and waving.
The brothers stopped their truck, and Seth McCollam stripped and swam out to her as she felt water rise to her calves, she said.
He escorted her back to the truck through the cold water and into the truck, where the heater was on full blast and Matt McCollam had a blanket for her.
She said they drove her to her husband in the nearby town of Chester, and she thanked them profusely but forgot their names in her shock. Somebody sent her a link to the video, and then she called Matt McCollam to thank him and make a donation to a foundation he runs.
“They were just so wonderful,” she said. “Yes, they saved my life.”
Seubert was cited for reckless driving, she said.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Jensen said the hazardous parts of the roadway were clearly marked by signs, and there have been no other instances of cars sliding off the highway since the spring flooding began.
Jensen said that stretch of the highway does not get a lot of traffic, and that Seubert was lucky the brothers came along when they did.
“That was amazing what he did to help that lady,” Jensen said of Seth McCollam. “If he hadn’t come along, it probably would have been a whole different story.”
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