As flood water filled his overturned SUV, and just as he started choking on “dirty water” rushing into his vehicle, Margarito Martinez thought he was going to die.
Members of a Santa Clarita Valley family, however, who had stopped at the flooded roadway behind Martinez and watched him try to drive hesitantly across the rain-filled stream, jumped out of their company truck, ran to his aid and, by Martinez’s own account, saved his life.
“I thought I was going to die,” Martinez told The Signal through a translator Thursday. “God was with me in that moment.”
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Christina Reyes, her uncle Sadu, and her two nieces, Martinez is alive to tell the story of how his vehicle was suddenly and violently swept downstream by the rising flood waters, hit some rocks and flipped over, trapping him inside.
As he struggled to get out of his seat belt, his rescuer, Sadu, grabbed some straps and used them to secure the van to anchored posts on the shore. Once secured, Sadu jumped onto the underside of the overturned SUV.
Angela Reyes and Gabriella Prudencio, Christina’s nieces, called 911 at 10:53 a.m. Thursday, alerting first responders to the emergency at Road Runner Road, near Sand Canyon Road.
“I gave him a rock and he was able to bust the main window,” Christina Reyes said. “He gave (Martinez) his hand and he pulled himself up.
“Then both of them jumped off,” she said.
By the time emergency response crews responding to the 911 call had arrived, the trapped man was freed, she said.
“We told him to get in our van to keep warm,” she said. “We gave him towels and jackets and clothes.”
When both drivers encountered one flooded roadway, they sought another way around the problem, only to find a second flooded roadway.
The Reyes family, which owns and operates IC Party Rentals, had just made a delivery in the Sand Canyon area and were on their way to another job when they stopped in the heavy rain, behind the Martinez SUV on Road Runner Road.
“He was alone in his car,” Christina Reyes said. “Then he decided to go and we yelled, ‘Oh, he’s decided to try and go through it.’
“When he reached the peak (middle of the stream) the water just took the car and it flipped over twice. We were in panic mode,” she said. “My uncle was able to get on top of the (overturned) vehicle.
“If we weren’t there, I don’t how long he would have been there before someone found (Martinez),” she said.
Martinez, who hugged his rescuers, told The Signal: “I thank God for giving me another opportunity in life.
“I am thankful for everything,” he said.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt