Florida woman meets the 'angel' 911 dispatcher who brought rescuers to her submerged car

"I'm freezing. I'm so scared," motorist Amanda Antonio told the dispatcher.

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By David K. Li

A Florida woman who had been trapped upside-down in her submerged car met the 911 dispatcher on Thursday who kept her calm in the harrowing moments just before she was rescued.

Water was quickly filling the car where Amanda Antonio, 20, was stuck at 4 a.m. ET in Tampa on Tuesday but with the help of dispatcher Cheyanne Allen, the motorist was eventually pulled from danger.

"I just want to say thank you to the dispatch lady and everyone who helped me that night — the fire rescuers, the dive team, the police officers standing behind me," said a tearful Antonio.

"She was the first angel that I met that night and she brought everyone else to me. I don't think I would have been able to make it."

Allen said her primary goal to remain cool and focused.

"I know I had to keep calm, to keep her calm," the dispatcher said. "I had to keep it together."

There was a 30-second span where Antonio remained silent and first responders hadn't yet arrived when Allen said she feared for the worst. But moments later, Allen heard the voices of deputies at the scene, signaling that Antonio was going to be OK.

Antonio was pulled to safety by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies Jeremy Pollack, Chris Sullivan and Ryan Cooper, who she also met again on Thursday.

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"When she stopped talking to me I felt my whole body just sink into my chair," Allen said. "It was a stressful situation and I'm glad it turned out the way it did."

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies rescued a woman from a sinking car near the Florida State Fairgrounds near Tampa on Jan. 1, 2019.Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Antonio was coming home from a New Year's Eve party when she lost control of her Toyota Scion, and it flipped near Exit 7 of Interstate 4.

As water began to fill the car, Antonio said she couldn't find her phone — but used her AppleWatch to ping and find it for the life-saving 911 call.

Sheriff's deputies did not administer a field sobriety test on Tuesday because Antonio showed no signs of impairment, department spokesman Daniel Alvarez said.

"If she were even a little drunk, she'd be dead," said Alvarez, crediting Antonio's fast thinking for using her watch to find her phone under water.

"Even sober, I wouldn't ever have thought of that."

Antonio told deputies she was cut off and swerved to avoid a crash, landing her in the muddy ditch upside-down, officials said. She spent about 20 minutes in the submerged car before rescuers got her out.

"Hi, I've been in a car accident. My car is flipped and I can't see anything, there's water getting in the car," Antonio told Allen in recordings of their call. "There's water getting in the car and I can't get out."

With her phone's battery dying at less than 5 percent power left, a panicked Antonio told Allen that time was of the essence.

"I'm freezing," Antonio said, explaining how the water was filling her car. "Now it's up to my chest. I'm flipped upside down."

The dispatcher told Antonio that help was coming.

"Yes ma'am, we have people on the way. Just stay on the phone with me, OK?" the dispatcher said.

Allen repeatedly asked Antonio to look around the car for anything she could use to possibly bust open a window to escape. And each time, Antonio said there was nothing like that she could find.

"I'm freezing. I'm so scared," Antonio reiterated.

"I know, I'm here with you, OK?" the reassuring Allen said. "Try to stay on the phone with me as long as you can."

While Antonio managed to keep her wits about her, she didn't hide the fear she was feeling.

"Are they close? Because the water is coming in fast," Antonio said. "It's getting there, it's getting to my neck. ... Please hurry I'm scared, I'm really scared."