Luis Santana was already 30 minutes late to work Monday morning when he asked his aunt to turn the car around on U.S. 41, just north of Powell Road.
Santana, 20, had seen Troy Fielder standing in water past his waist, trying unsuccessfully to get into his car. Fielder, 84, had woken up to chairs and the kitchen table floating around his home, just south of Brooksville. He was trying to leave his home to go and visit his wife, Lilly, who has leukemia, at Oak Hill Hospital.
"He didn't realize how flooded it was until it was too late," Fielder's stepson, Richard Gray, said. "The house had flooded before in 1973. It was ankle deep, but it was never this deep before."
By the time Santana's aunt parked on the side of U.S. 41, Fielder had gone back inside his home, which was halfway filled with water.
"It was his safety we were concerned about," Santana's brother, Josh Navarro, 16, said.
As their aunt, Drenda Sanchez, called for an ambulance, Santana and Navarro waded into the water and went to Fielder's door.
Santana and Navarro said Fielder repeatedly asked to go to his car so he could go visit his wife
"We told him, 'You need to get out of here. You can't stay like this,' " Santana said. "He was tripping everywhere."
As they helped Fielder out of his house and through his yard, Santana held on to Fielder to make sure he didn't fall over. Santana said the water at points came up to his chest and part of the yard was deep enough to swim through.
Authorities and paramedics arrived as the two young men made their way through Fielder's driveway.
Fielder had cut his foot and had to receive stitches at Oak Hill, but otherwise was not injured.
Gray said he received a call about 9 a.m. from a friend to tell him that part of his stepfather and mother's house was flooded. Because of work, he was not able to get there right away.
"When I got there, two young men had helped my father out of the house," Gray said. " I'm very appreciative."
Fielder was released from the hospital, and Gray was helping him rescue two pet cats, J.D. and Samantha, from the house and talk to the insurance company on Tuesday. The American Red Cross was providing Fielder with temporary housing.
"I'm just glad we were actually around," Santana said.
Laura Herrera can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6114.