Off-duty officer saves woman after car plunges into El Portal canal

EL PORTAL, Fla. – A South Florida driver is grateful to be alive after her car ended up in a canal.

Fortunately, an off-duty police officer was in the right place at the right time.

It happened Tuesday just before 5 p.m. along North Miami Avenue and Northwest 85th Street.

El Portal Police Officer Angel Lopez, who was heading home, spotted the situation and jumped into the water to help in the nick of time.

“You do what you have to do, and thank God that everything worked out,” Lopez told Local 10 News on Wednesday.

Local 10 was there as a black Chevy Cruze was slowly lifted from the C-7 canal, water spilling from the vehicle’s doors.

As that happened, Sabrina Anderson looked on, grateful after being saved from the sinking car.

She was inside the submerged vehicle just minutes earlier.

“She was nervous. I mean, apparently she had just gotten that car. I felt bad for her,” Lopez said.

Anderson was grateful for Lopez and first responders who were later called to the scene.

“I want to thank the rescue and everything for coming into the water and getting me,” she said.

According to Miami-Dade police, this happened as the result of a crash involving three cars.

Anderson said a woman’s vehicle collided with her car.

“It made my car go over into the water,” she explained.

At that moment, Lopez spotted the car in the canal on his way home from work.

“I went ahead and activated my emergency equipment, went around, and then I saw people running. And a lady tells me, ‘There’s a car in the water and there’s someone inside!’” Lopez said. “So I stripped off my gun belt and I went down the embankment. I went up and over, and I went down the embankment and, you know, luckily the car stayed floating long enough that we could get her out.”

El Portal’s police chief commended his officer for acting immediately.

“He went sliding down the embankment (and) he was able to get to the woman,” said El Portal Police Chief David Magnusson. “The window was open, fortunately, and he pulled her out through the window.”

Lopez was also able to call for fire rescue, speeding up their arrival. Both he and Anderson got out of the water safely.

“I’m extremely proud of my officer and what he did,” said Chief Magnusson. “Officer Lopez is a man of few words so to speak, but I can tell you in our conversation he was he was very proud, very happy.”

Lopez is a 35-year law enforcement veteran and a member of the El Portal Police Department for the last five years.

For those who call him a hero, the humble officer said he was just doing his job.

“I mean, no, thousands of us every day in this country who wear this uniform do these kind of things,” he said. “You know, it’s just another day on the job. This is what we sign up for.”

There has been no update on whether anyone was cited for the original crash.

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