Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rescuers break window to save elderly couple after car goes over Dunedin seawall

DUNEDIN — As his boat started out from Dunedin Marina, Courtney Douthit glanced back to a shock Sunday.

A Mercury Marquis accelerated from a parking space, over the seawall and into the harbor. A couple in their 80s were inside.

Douthit halted his boat and jumped into 6 feet of water. He was joined by two others, and they saved the couple by shattering the car's rear window with a fire extinguisher and their bare hands, and pulling them out as they sank.

"It could have been your grandparents, that's part of the deal," said Douthit, an electrician and part-time fishing guide. "We were there at perfect timing."

Joseph Schlesselman, 89, and his wife, Ruth, 86, had come to the marina Sunday afternoon to watch the boats.

Joseph Schlesselman began to park in a handicapped space, but hit the gas instead of the brake, authorities said. Their car jumped the seawall and landed in an empty boat slip, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

That triggered a dramatic rescue by Douthit, 32, of Dunedin, Joseph Sentelik, 48, of Land O'Lakes and Eric Corum, 42, of Tarpon Springs.

"Definitely true heroes," said Dunedin Fire Rescue Division Chief Bill McElligott.

Nancy Williams, a manager at the Bon Appetit restaurant across the street, saw the car being parked as she went to a storage room. She heard a scrape and looked again to see the car accelerating over concrete parking blocks. The car teetered on the seawall a moment. Then it gunned into the water.

She said she ran inside, yelling to co-workers to call 911.

As the rescuers tried to get in the car, she ran outside and saw the couple.

"They were trying to keep their mouths open above the water," she said.

Finally, Douthit smashed the rear window with an extinguisher from his boat. Sentelik peeled the shattered glass away with his hands. The rescuers managed to push the seat belt button and pull the couple out.

The husband appeared to have scraped his head and left behind a prosthetic leg, Douthit said.

"I'm an electrician. I see a lot of stuff that could lead to people's deaths, but not that close," he said.

The Sheriff's Office said the couple received minor injuries. A woman who answered the couple's phone declined comment.

Sentelik was cut from the glass and taken to an emergency room for treatment.

Douthit ended his day with his wife, Meredith, and son, Gabriel, 2, the way he had intended.

Fishing.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

CTS Towing of Clearwater lifts a Mercury Marquis out of the water at the Dunedin Marina on Sunday. Joseph Schlesselman and his wife were in the car when it went over the seawall.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times

CTS Towing of Clearwater lifts a Mercury Marquis out of the water at the Dunedin Marina on Sunday. Joseph Schlesselman and his wife were in the car when it went over the seawall.

Rescuers break window to save elderly couple after car goes over Dunedin seawall 08/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 30, 2010 10:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    Nba

    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Charles Bradley, acclaimed Florida soul singer, dies at 68

    Blogs

    Acclaimed Florida R&B powerhouse Charles Bradley, whose raw, pained voice earned him the nickname the Screaming Eagle of Soul, has died of cancer at 68, his representatives announced Saturday.

    Charles Bradley performed at the 2016 Gasparilla Music Festival.