MADEIRA BEACH — Retired Chrysler worker Terrance W. Roe was working on his boat late Saturday morning when he heard a noise.
He looked up and saw a car plunge into the water and turn over near the Sea Towers condominiums.
Roe, 65, didn't see anyone moving to help, so he took off his shoes and shirt and jumped in. He tried the doors of the upside-down car, but couldn't open them. He hollered to bystanders for a tool.
With a pair of heavy pliers, he banged on the back windows of the car, which were still jutting above the water.
"I really felt bad that I couldn't do more than what I did," Roe said. "I did what I could."
When firefighters arrived, they used a cutting tool to get into the car and pull out Robert Taylor, 87. He was taken to St. Petersburg General Hospital and pronounced dead.
"Once they got him up, his body was limp," said Gail Kayajain, who was working in the back of her condo when she heard a loud commotion across the canal. "Just seeing someone brought out of the water, the first thing I thought was is someone — maybe his wife — waiting for him? It's sad."
Taylor had been driving his car in the parking lot of the Sea Towers at 4600 Duhme Road, a gated community that sits on the water, in an area was where residents can vacuum their vehicles. Kayajain said the car was pulling behind it a large, silver vacuum machine provided by the condos.
Suddenly, witnesses saw the car run over a parking curb, drive through a bush and fall into the water between two boats in slips. When rescuers pulled out Taylor of 4750 Cove Circle No. 502, Madeira Beach, Roe glimpsed him for the first time. They told Roe that it takes a specific instrument to break into a car window.
Roe saw the victim was elderly and realized how long he'd been in the water.
"It's an emotional situation for me, too," he said.
Chris Tisch can be reached at (727) 892-2359 or firstname.lastname@example.org.