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Woman falls asleep at wheel, wakes up in Tampa retention pond

TAMPA — Gigi Johnson woke up in a panic early Friday morning.

Water was closing in on the sides of her white Hyundai SUV. The doors wouldn't open, and the windows wouldn't roll down.

Johnson, 29, tried to beat out the window with a baseball bat she had in the car. No luck.

"I need to get out of this car," she remembered thinking. "I can't swim."

She didn't know exactly what happened, how she got there. One minute she was driving, the next she was waking up in a retention pond.

Police said Johnson's car veered off Adamo Drive around 5:30 a.m. Friday near the intersection with 34th Street after she apparently fell asleep. It went down a steep embankment and then became partially submerged in the pond.

Johnson, who wasn't injured, said she battled with the doors and windows for about seven or eight minutes.

A few hundred yards away, bridge construction workers saw the car leave the road.

They called 911 and radioed superintendent Darryl Schriner, 46, who was in the area.

Schriner said he hopped in his truck and sped over to the retention pond.

The longtime PCL Civil Constructors Inc. employee said the vehicle was half submerged by the time he arrived. Johnson was beating the back window with a baseball bat.

"She was really scared," Schriner said. "She was screaming and crying and saying she couldn't swim."

An officer was securing the scene and gave Schriner a window-busting device.

Schriner waded out to the car, smashed the window and pulled Johnson out.

The Hyundai eventually was completely submerged.

"It was very fortunate for her," Schriner said. "Typically, there is no one out there at that time of the morning. It could have gone really bad for her."

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Woman falls asleep at wheel, wakes up in Tampa retention pond 08/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 13, 2010 11:51am]
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