A Birthday to Remember: Delaware Woman Saves Woman Trapped Inside Overturned Vehicle

A Bear, Delaware woman received a birthday gift to remember, after she saved the life of a woman who was trapped inside a car that had flipped over into a retention pond.

“It was an amazing blessing and gift to have been able to pull the woman out,” said Chelsea Rhudy, who turned 29 Wednesday. “I have no doubt she would have died if I didn’t jump in.”

The ordeal began around 1 p.m. as a 2011 Toyota Highlander with six people inside traveled on the Delaware Route 1 southbound exit ramp toward Mall Road in Newark.

As the driver, identified as 33-year-old Xian Chen Dong of Philadelphia, approached the intersection, the traffic light turned from green to yellow. Dong accelerated and tried to make a right hand turn onto Mall Road but lost control of the car, according to investigators. The vehicle struck a cement curb and flipped over. It then slid down an embankment and came to a rest on its roof in a retention pond.

Dong, four other adults and a 5-year-old boy, were trapped inside. That’s when several good Samaritans passing by ran into the water and pulled them out to safety. By the time Rhudy stopped at the scene, five of the passengers had already been rescued.

“I wasn’t the first person to stop,” Rhudy said. “There were probably 20 people standing on the embankment when I got to the water’s edge. Everyone was helping a woman and child who had been pulled from the water.”

Suddenly Rhudy noticed one woman who was still trapped inside the car. Two people were attempting to pull her out but were struggling to do so.

“The two occupants trying to help her were in shock and couldn’t help much,” Rhudy said. “No one was realizing they were struggling with the last person.”

That’s when Rhudy decided to jump in.

“I reached them and looking into the car,” Rhudy said. “All I could see were a person’s feet sticking up out of the water. I pulled her free and flipped her over to get her face out of the water. When I held her I thought she was dead to be honest.”

With the freezing cold water up to her chest, Rhudy struggled to get the woman out.

“The water was so cold,” Rhudy said. “I was feeling like my body was not responding as well as it should have.”

Rhudy called out for help and another person came to her aid. Together, the pulled the woman out. 

“I held her until the paramedics arrived,” Rhudy said. “On the embankment she started to come to and threw up a lot of water. She started going into shock and I talked to her to calm her down and she gripped my hand.”

For Rhudy, who told NBC10 she would love to meet the woman she saved, it was a birthday that she’ll never forget.

“I’m kind of on cloud nine,” Rhudy said. “When I thought she was dead it was just horror and shock. But then when she came to and started breathing, after she coughed up the water I held her head and I held her hand and she gripped me. She just stared at me the whole time. It was an amazing experience.”

All six people were taken from the scene and transported to the Christiana Hospital Trauma Center where they are currently being treated for their injuries. A spokesman for New Castle County Emergency Medical Services says the 5-year-old is in critical condition; the others are in serious condition.

Delaware State Police are investigating the crash and said charges are expected.

The Del. Route 1 southbound ramp was closed for about an hour after the accident. It has since been reopened.

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