Sergeant says fate led him to help save family from car submerged in canal

Lighthouse Point police Sgt. Christopher Oh describes role in I-95 canal rescue

LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Fla. – It was fate. 

Lighthouse Point police Sgt. Christopher Oh was a little late to work Friday. 

It was two days before Christmas and the 24-year veteran ran into a roadblock, so he chose a different route. 

"I was supposed to go that way that day," Oh said. 

While on the road, he saw a Hyundai Elantra veer off Interstate 95 and end up in a Deerfield Beach canal. 

Oh called 911 immediately and remembers a man surfacing from the car.

"We yelled at him, 'Is there anybody else in the car?" Oh said. "He said, 'My baby is in the car.'"

The man, later identified as Chris Herndon, 42, survived the crash and was able to get out of the sinking car.

Oh said Herndon went back under the surface of the water, trying to free his daughter.

At that point, six to eight good Samaritans jumped in the water to help. 

The upside-down car, which was submerged seven to eight feet underwater, was hard to access. 

A Road Ranger pulled up and Oh asked him for a rope or chain. 

"About seven or eight of us grabbed the line," Oh said. "We were able to physically pull the call over with our hands." 

Once they flipped the car, those in the water were able to get the 3-year-old girl and her mother out.

"I initiated CPR on her until the paramedics arrived," Oh said of the mother, Cynthia Hutchinson, 42, who died on Christmas Eve. 

The family remains hopeful about Aubrey, who is showing signs of improvement. 

Oh doesn't consider himself a hero. 

The real heroes are the good Samaritans, close to 20 strangers, who stopped, helped and risked their lives to save the family. 

"There was probably seven or eight people in the water," Oh said. "There were eight or nine on the shore, pulling lines, grabbing tools, people from every walk of life. There were people in business suits, lawn-maintenance workers." 

As a father of two, Oh can't help but think about the father who lost his wife and is now caring for his toddler. 

"I really felt his desperation and I think the bystanders did also, and that's why so many people risked their lives to try and save this family," Oh said.

The sergeant said he shed a few tears over the weekend for that little girl and her mother.

"It does affect you," Oh said. 

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