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Human Interest

North Carolina Mom and 1-Year-Old Son Rescued from Submerged Car: ‘It Was Scary,’ Says Officer

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On Sunday, the Fayetteville Police Department rescued a woman clutching her young son to her chest from a submerged car in North Carolina. The police department posted a video of the daring rescue of Carolyn Nwathukwu and her 1-year-old child after they became trapped in the flood waters of Hurricane Matthew.

“The waters were continuing to rise at a rapid pace,” Lt. Todd Joyce, one of the rescuers in the video, tells PEOPLE. “I’m thankful that we were able to get to them because had it been another 5 or 10 minutes… I don’t even want to think about the worst, by no means, but it breaks my heart when I think about it.”

Joyce was a part of a team of three, including Officer Chase Robinson and Officer Asia Cannon, who was filming the rescue. They were traveling in an armored rescue vehicle which could maneuver in the fast moving water as they looked for stranded storm victims.

Hurricane Matthew left a devastating impact in its wake. The mother was alone, surrounded by water that reached her car’s windshield. She stood in her open car door, clinging onto the door with one hand and onto her child with the other. The rescue team drove up to the stranded car, first grabbing the crying child, then helping the mother climb on the hood of the car and into the rescue truck.

“She was just trying to get back home, I don’t know how deep the water was at that time, but her car stalled out and she couldn’t get out,” Joyce says. “It was scary, but I’m thankful that they’re okay today.”

The Fayetteville Police Department posted the video to their Facebook page, garnering 2.6 million views. They urged residents to stay inside and to not leave their homes.

The torrential rain and record-breaking floods brought out the swift water rescue team as well as Coast Guard helicopters to save people trapped in their homes and on rooftops.

One woman in North Carolina was rescued from a tree, where she hung on for three hours until help came,” reports CBS News. Another woman got stuck on the way home from work. A National Guard soldier had to swim to the 63-year-old to wait with her for a rescue boat. A 66-year-old man near Columbia, South Carolina, died at a nursing facility when he got pinned under his electric wheelchair in water after the heavy rains, according to the outlet.

Towns in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida are all grabbling with the aftermath of the vicious storm.

“After that video people started emailing us, saying ‘ya’ll are heroes’ and I’m like, ‘No, I just want somebody to do the same thing if it were my family,’ ” says Joyce. “I’m just thankful that the mother and child are safe.”