MP rescues woman from flood; 3 cars lost at depot entrance
By Staff Sgt. Scott Dunn
| | October 29, 2004
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
A military policeman finishing a 12-hour shift rescued a civilian employee after she drove her car into a flooded subway early Oct. 27, about 300 feet from Gate 4, the depot's main entrance.
Rosa Maria Miranda, a fairly new scullery worker at the recruit mess hall, said she would have drowned if Lance Cpl. Daniel Walker, 27, did not come to her aid. Miranda began employment one month ago through the Association of Retarded Citizens.
According to Walker, around 4 a.m., a car stalled in the flooded subway. The driver safely exited her car and approached Walker at Gate 4. About 20 minutes later, Walker heard screams.
"At first, I didn't know what was happening," said Walker. He said a woman was yelling, "Help me! Please, help me!"
Witnesses from the nearby Vietnam Veterans of San Diego shelter, whose residences and office spaces suffered flood damage, said they heard the same distress.
With streetlights on inside the Witherby Street subway below Pacific Highway, Walker said all he could see was Miranda holding her purse sitting on water. She was actually on the roof of her Ford Focus, which was submerged in six feet of water. When she had driven in the water, the engine died and the car began floating. Miranda said she climbed out when she felt water around her ankles.
Walker called for backup and MPs arrived to man the gate. With rain pouring, Walker, a husband and father, removed his police gear, swam to a frantic Miranda, and tried to calm her.
"(Lance Cpl. Walker) kept talking to me and telling me to relax," Miranda told local TV reporters through Spanish interpreter Lance Cpl. Oscar Gonzalez-Millan. "He saved my life. Without him, I would have drowned because I don't know how to swim. I thank God and Daniel for helping me."
Walker said there was no technique to his rescue: "She grabbed on, choking me. I thought, 'I guess we're doing it this way."
He said a Samaritan proclaiming to be an off-duty paramedic approached the water on the other side of the rising flood, but Walker told him to get back.
The shortest distance to safety was across the water from Gate 4, so Walker swam until he touched bottom and carried Miranda to solid ground.
Other than enduring some cold temperatures, military police said Miranda and Walker suffered no injuries. Police placed Miranda in a heated police car with some blankets and returned to the depot.
"Being at my post - being an MP, being a Marine - we're first responders. That's our job," said Walker. "I just thought someone needed help, and I was the man on duty."
The flooded subway claimed three vehicles despite flashing signs warning motorists that it is "subject to flooding." A measuring stick indicated water levels as high as eight feet at the tunnel's mouth, and towing companies, local police and river rescue personnel helped recover the damage vehicles as rain and flooding subsided.
The National Weather Service reported 2.7 inches of rain Oct. 27 at neighboring Lindbergh Field, bringing October's rain total to more than 4.5 inches, a record high. According to news reports, San Diego recently marked a record 181 days without measurable precipitation.
The depot was built on marshland in 1919, and because the subway is at sea level less than two miles from San Diego Bay, locals think the combination of high tide and sludge moved by sudden, infrequent rains impairs drains and overworks pumps.