GLENWOOD, N.Y. (WIVB) — An off-duty Buffalo Police Officer rescued three people out of a pond on Tuesday night after they accidentally drove their car into it.
Around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, detective AJ Ortiz, who is also second-in-command of the Buffalo Police Under Water Recovery Team, came upon the sinking car in the vicinity of the Kissing Bridge Ski Resort.
The victims say the moment they felt their car sinking into the pond and silky soil was terrifying and straight out of a movie. The detective says he was the right person, in the right place and at the right time.
“To have the experience, to have the training and to have the equipment to do such a thing, it was pretty impressive for me to be in the right place at the right time,” Detective Ortiz said.
While off duty, Ortiz was driving down Crane Rd. when he noticed tail lights in a pond. That’s when he stopped, grabbed his underwater recovery gear, dialed 911 and sprang into action.
“I then got a tow strap, strapped it to that vehicle and anchored it to my truck so that it could not go any further down. I put some tension on that and then went back to the vehicle to start removing the individuals,” Ortiz said.
Some of the passengers in the car are visiting from San Diego, Calif. for a family wedding. Mike Linnan was in the front seat of the car and two others were in the car at the time. Ortiz pulled each passenger out one by one and got them safely ashore.
“It was like something out of a movie almost,” Linnan told News 4. “He was able to pull me out and I literally wrapped myself around him and I’m much bigger than he is and he carried me all the way to the bank and deposited me there.”
They were trying to find their Airbnb when they made a wrong turn into the water. It was pitch black and their car was stuck with cold water pouring in.
“The car is sinking and water is rushing in and all kind of thoughts are going through your head. Whatever training he has is remarkable. It worked,” Linnan said.
“It was very good to be apart of something where it was a positive outcome,” Ortiz concluded.
The passengers in the car are incredibly grateful to Detective Ortiz and all of the first responders who helped them during an uncertain and scary time.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.