Nathalia Bruno was out delivering food during a storm when she was swept away into an underground viaduct opening

By Gabrielle Chung
July 13, 2020 05:50 PM
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Nathalia Bruno

A 24-year-old woman is grateful to be alive after she was swept for almost a mile through an underground storm drain during a flash flood.

Nathalia Bruno was delivering food for DoorDash in Passaic, New Jersey during a powerful storm on July 6 when her car began filling up with water and started to float toward a large viaduct opening, according to Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost.

Trentacost told the North Jersey Herald that Bruno was able to get out of her vehicle, but the current was traveling at 30 miles per hour and quickly pulled the driver and her car into a a brook that ran beneath the city.

Bruno traveled for almost a mile through the drainage system before she was "shot out" into the Passaic River, Rutherford Police Chief John Russo told the outlet. He said Bruno managed to swim to the other side of the river and climb into a backyard, where a homeowner called for an ambulance.

"She was stunned," Russo said. "She was out of it. In shock. She really didn’t know what happened to her."

Bruno was transported to a local hospital, but was not seriously injured, the North Jersey Herald reported.

"I didn't even know what I was going through," Bruno recalled the harrowing incident to ABC affiliate WABC. "I tried to grab the car, but I couldn't, I remember trying to grab the wheel, but I couldn't."

"For me it was five minutes, all dark, trying to breathe, trying to put my feet on the ground, to pull me and get me some air," she continued.

Bruno said she thought about her boyfriend — whom she had just texted her before she was swept away in the flood — and her family while she was struggling in the water.

"This is the last time he's going to see me, gonna talk to me, and thinking about my mom," she remembered. "I kept thinking, 'I have to fight, I can't die right now.' "

While traveling through the storm drain, Bruno was fortunate enough to avoid obstacles in the tunnel. Her car, on the other hand, slammed into an underground support beam and did not make it down to the Passaic River, WABC reported.

Bruno's Toyota Prius had to be lifted from the storm drain, according to the outlet.

"This thing keeps getting in my mind - unbelievable I'm alive," Bruno said.

A spokesperson for DoorDash confirmed that Bruno is a driver for the food delivery service.

"At DoorDash, we take the safety of our community extremely seriously, and our thoughts and sincerest condolences are with the Dasher who endured this frightening event," the company said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "We have been in contact with the Dasher to offer our support during her recovery and have provided her with financial assistance as well as occupational accident insurance to cover expenses incurred."