11/16/09 — Woman rescued from lake

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Woman rescued from lake

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 16, 2009 1:46 PM

Adam Thornton was driving to work at Walnut Creek Country Club when he saw a member of the kitchen staff frantically waving at him.

Other employees of the country club were gathered near Lake Wackena too, along Lakeshore Drive in the village of Walnut Creek, looking distraught. They pointed out into the water near the bridge.

Maria Juarez, 24, of Dudley, had driven her 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix into Lake Wackena.

"(They) flagged me down and she said that there was someone drowning, and that they couldn't swim," Thornton said.

Highway Patrol Trooper Adam Fowler, who arrived soon after Ms. Juarez was pulled to shore, said that the car was in the water about 15 feet from the bank.

Another unidentified man was already at the bank of the water with a tow line, trying to get it to Ms. Juarez, who was bobbing up and down, Thornton said.

"I swam out there, and when I got a foot or two away from here, I gave her the rope strap, and pulled her in," Thornton said.

Once Ms. Juarez was at the edge of the bank, people at the shore helped her to regain her calm, Thornton said.

"We got her back on land, and we got here where she could breathe again," Thornton said.

Thornton is an assistant pro who works in the shop at Walnut Country Club, helping with daily duties and running the shop.

The Walnut Creek employee said the water was deep enough that Ms. Juarez' Grand Prix was completely submerged.

"I never saw the car, not once," Thornton said. "When I got out there, there, she was struggling to stay up, like bobbing up and down."

Fowler said that the Highway Patrol got the call about the crash about 7 a.m. Sunday.

The trooper said the Arr-Mac Water Response Team, and the Elroy, Arrington and Mar Mac volunteer fire departments responded to assist, along with members of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Emergency workers were able to get the car out of the water, Fowler said.

The trooper said Ms. Juarez was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

"She seems to be fine, recovering," Fowler said, adding that investigators did not believe speed or alcohol played a role in the accident.

The trooper said that Ms. Juarez's driver's side window was either rolled down before the crash or she had been able to roll it down after plunging into the lake, enabling her to try to swim to safety.

Thornton, who lives in the Tucker's Mill community near New Hope Road outside Goldsboro, said he believes a higher power helped him save Ms. Juarez.

"It was by the grace of God, that I was able to go out there and bring her back," Thornton said. "The Lord provides. I'm still thanking him for giving me the ability to get out there and get her."