A navy-blue Pontiac Grand Am driven by Scott Cheatwood, a 41-year-old father and husband, had just splashed into the water and sunk to the bottom. Snow was falling as Bryant turned her car around and drove back. She stopped her car and spotted Cheatwood in the distance.
“I saw a man; I saw his head and his ball cap. He appeared to be on his back swimming with his hands under the water,” Bryant said.
Cheatwood had just crawled up the bank and into the snow-filled air when he spotted Bryant, a stranger, waiting for him by the road. Her white sedan would serve as shelter from the weather until Cheatwood’s family arrived.
“He was walking toward my car and the poor thing was freezing to death. Water was running off his jeans,” Bryant said.
Cheatwood later described the crash, which he said started when he hit an icy patch of pavement.
“My tail end started sliding,” Cheatwood said. “I knew I was going to wreck. It was just a matter of where I was going to land.”
Cheatwood said his car swiveled across the center line, swerved back toward the pond and dodged two trees before it landed in the water. By the time the car careened beneath the surface, he was ready for what was coming.
“I undid my seatbelt and opened my door,” Cheatwood said. “I didn’t want to get trapped, and I knew I was going for a swim.”
Cheatwood left his car, which he had bought the night before, submerged in the water. Walking away from it, he said, just about all he had with him was a heavy set of wet clothes and a lot of gratitude.
“I was so thankful for her,” he said. “I hated to get her wet, but I had to give her a hug before I left with my dad.”