Teacher saves neighbor’s life after SUV crashes into icy creek

COSHOCTON COUNTY, Ohio-- Michelle Allen says she was driving on County Road 410, a familiar route, believing it was just covered with snow.

It was six degrees outside; schools were cancelled because of the cold.

But as she drove onto the snow she quickly realized something was terribly wrong.

"I started sinking and I thought, 'Oh my God; what am I going to do, you know; I'm sinking,'" said Allen.

She says she had this dire sense of being trapped in the icy water with no one coming to help.

"Nothing worked. Nothing. I mean the car started filling up with water; everything just shorted out," she said.

The water was coming from a flooded Wills Creek, which parallels the road.

By one estimate, her SUV traveled about 70 yards from where it first hit the ice until it crashed through and started to sink.

What seemed like a snow-covered road was actually snow blowing over floodwater from the creek which had risen to about chest deep where she was now trapped and sinking.

Allen says she called 911 and then her husband, Dave, who raced to the scene from their home a few miles away with their neighbor, Rusty Bluck, a school teacher who was off because school had been cancelled.

"My heart dropped to my toes. It was like, 'How am I going to get her out of there?'" said Dave Allen.

Bluck says he had always hated the thought of having to get into cold water, but as soon as they got to the scene he said his thoughts were not about his own safety.

"I know what happens in cold water, and when it's six degrees out; I knew she had been in there awhile and so I knew she had to get out of there; she was going to be in danger," said Bluck.

He made his way out over the ice and lifted himself onto the roof of the SUV.

Dave Allen says he tried to follow him but crashed through the ice himself.

"I stepped on the ice that Rusty had just walked over and went up to my chest and I knew with three people in the water, that's three people that's going to have to be saved. I need to get out of the water. I wasn't going to help anybody," said Allen.

"I leaned over the passenger-side window and she's sitting in there, still behind the steering wheel, sitting in water this deep and I said, 'Michelle, how long have you been in the water?' She said, 'I've been in here for about 20 minutes,' and I said, 'We are going to have to get you out of here,'" said Bluck.

Michelle says Bluck, who is a powerlifter, reached in and grabbed her with one arm, lifting her to the roof of the SUV.

But when she tried stepping onto the ice to make her way to safety, she also fell through.

"As she went off, as soon as her feet hit the water, hit the ice, she went clear through , and I don't even remember jumping off the car, but I jumped off into water behind her," said Bluck.

He said he made several attempts to lift Michelle onto the ice so she could crawl to safety, but she kept falling through.

"It took my breath away. It took his breath away and we are slogging through this ice, cold water, all this ice and he would pick me up and throw me onto this ice and I'd sink down," said Allen.

"He just kept throwing me up on the ice and it kept breaking and I'm like, 'Russ, you have got to stop; you have got to stop. I cant breathe; I cant do anything.'"

But Bluck says he wasn't going to quit.

"About the third time she's like, 'I'm done. I can't do this,' but I just kept putting her back up there and finally I put her up on ice and shoved her forward and she started crawling," said Bluck.

Allen was finally able to crawl to safety, but Bluck says he knew he had to stay in the water himself until she was off at a safe distance.

"I knew I had to wait because if I had tried to get up right behind her we would have both gone through the ice and I don't know if I could have got her onto the ice again," said Bluck.

"It flashed through my mind like, what if I don't get out of here, and my girls and my wife and stuff, so I knew I had to get out fast and I couldn't breathe the whole time because, I guess, because of the cold water," he said.

"I could feel the fatigue set in but I thought, 'Do not stop,' and I just kept pushing, pushing the ice down and by then she was crawling off to safety but I kept shoving the ice down and crawling across it," added Bluck.

Both were on safe ground and in a warm truck by the time the first authorities arrived.

"I wasn't afraid until after the whole thing unfolded and I was sitting at home," said Bluck.

"I believe God puts the right people in the right places at the right times; that's what happened that day," said Dave Allen.

For the Allens, their neighbor is now also their hero.

"For him to do something that he was terrified to do just to save my life, I don't think I'll ever be able to thank him enough," said Michelle.​