WEEKI WACHEE — Alex Nadeau sat in the back seat of the SUV when, he would later tell his brother, the vehicle's tire slipped off the side of Shoal Line Boulevard.
In seconds, the car had flipped onto its roof and slid into a canal. Water rushed in around the 6-year-old.
The boy's brother, Lee Nadeau, 26, still isn't quite sure what happened, but Alex told him he felt a hand reach in through an open window and pull him out.
Alex's father, Harold Harless, and grandmother, Diane Harless, were still inside.
Diane Harless was driving northbound when she veered onto the east shoulder of the road, then over-corrected, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The vehicle crossed the south lane and went into a canal, where it flipped and submerged.
After he escaped, the boy sat on the roadside and watched as emergency personnel pulled his dad from the vehicle. They placed Mr. Harless on a stretcher and tried to revive him. They couldn't save him. Both Mr. Harless, 56, and his 72-year-old mother later died of their injuries.
As of early Thursday afternoon, Lee Nadeau still hadn't broken the news to his brother. He just didn't know how to tell him.
"They were very close," Nadeau said of Alex and his father. "He meant the world to him."
The brothers share the same mother, Charlene Nadeau. She was convicted of manslaughter and other charges in April 2010 after she sold a man prescription pills from which he later fatally overdosed. Charlene Nadeau was sentenced to 40 months in state prison.
After hearing of Tuesday night's tragedy, Lee Nadeau didn't hesitate to take in his brother. He and his girlfriend share a home in Brooksville, and he works a security job near Tampa.
"I'm just really grateful Alex is okay," Nadeau said. "I'm lucky to have him."
Reach John Woodrow Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.