Rescue from rising water comes as natural response

One good deed spawned another for Chris Dornan during Tuesday night's freak downpour on the south side of the city.

He stopped on the East Trans-Canada Highway in the pounding rain to offer a ride to a woman and her son who were headed - oddly enough - to the Storms restaurant.

After dropping them off, he headed home, taking a different route than usual because of his Good Samaritan detour.

That detour put him at Tenth Avenue and Lorne Street just in time to see an Acura SUV stalled at the bottom of the railway underpass, rainwater climbing up the doors to the window level.

Dornan could see someone was still inside, he recalled Wednesday morning.

The woman occupant couldn't get the door open, but finally rolled down the window, which allowed water to get in and offset the pressure on the door, he said.

That woman was Tracy Nicolson. She said the rain was pounding so hard, her Acura's windshield wipers couldn't keep up.

She was following a little car in front of her and planned to stop at a gas station on the other side of the underpass to wait out the storm. She drove part way into the underpass not being able to see where the asphalt ended and the water began. The engine stalled and the SUV got sucked in deeper.

"I didn't even see the water was there. It totally immersed me and pushed me to the middle of the underpass," she said.

"The door was jarred for a while. I had to stop and take a breath. You don't know how deep the water is."

As the water quickly rose, she got the door open.

Dornan waded in as Nicolson faced the deep, dark water.

"The water wasn't a torrent, but it was splashing up on both sides and pushing the vehicle around," he said.

"The water was right up to my chest."

Dornan helped Nicolson slog her way to safety.

"I'm not sure if she went through the window or the door. I think she got the passenger door open. By that time, I was two-thirds of the way out there, I just reached out and grabbed her. 'C'mon, let's get out of here,'" he said.

Dornan took her to his van so she could warm up and call her family.

"She couldn't believe it had really happened," he said, adding he thought she was in a bit of shock.

Nicolson's sister and dad showed up, and Dornan could see police and fire had the situation under control, so he left.

Later Tuesday night, Nicolson called him to thank him again.

"I don't know what I would have done without him," she said Wednesday.

For Dornan, who has worked in search and rescue, it was a natural response.

"You see somebody in distress, you go and help them."

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