ST. PETERSBURG — Police have cited a St. Petersburg woman on a careless driving charge after her SUV hit another vehicle Tuesday, causing a five-car accident that pushed a car carrying two children into a canal.
Tari L. Denehy, 54, was driving a gold GMC Yukon Tuesday when she rear-ended a car driven by William J. Bacheler, 39, of St. Petersburg, police said. Bacheler's car landed upside down in the waist deep water.
Denehy's Yukon came to rest in the water a few feet away, but right side up. St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said it was not clear whether a medical emergency caused Denehy to accelerate unexpectedly.
Bacheler declined to speak with a reporter on Wednesday, but a bystander who rushed to help considers him a hero.
Richard Aikman, a former firefighter who lives across the street, rushed outside when he heard a splash. He saw 9-year-old Jacob Wilson, who Bacheler had pulled from his car, lying on the bank.
Bacheler told him his 8-year-old, James Wilson, was still trapped inside by a jammed seat belt.
Aikman began fumbling for a knife, but another man tossed his pocket knife to Bacheler— a nearly 20-foot throw that Bacheler caught.
"He never gave up, man," Aikman said. "He was just trying to get his kid out."
Bacheler pulled James from the car, Aikman said, and found he wasn't breathing. He was revived quickly after a bystander helped start CPR.
Aikman said the accident's timing, at least, was good. At high tide, that canal can be more than 5 feet deep. "If the kid would have been under water a couple minutes longer, if the guy would have dropped the knife — there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong," Aikman said, "and everything turned out right. "
Claire Wiseman can be reached at (727)-893-8804 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @clairelwiseman.