Caught on Tape: Dramatic River Rescue

Gerry Goit on "The Early Show."
Gerry Goit, of Washington State, was worn out after climbing Mt. Rainier near Seattle on Saturday. He fell asleep while driving home and soon afterwards, his SUV plunged down an embankment and his car flipped upside down into a frigid, raging river, leaving him trapped and desperate inside.

On "The Early Show," Goit said he woke up before his car flew into the river. He said he knew exactly what was happening the entire time.

"As I was going off the road, I saw myself going toward some trees thinking, 'OK, the trees will stop me and I'll have wrecked my car, but I'll be fine.' But then I went through the trees, down the bank. And flipped over and ended up upside down in the river. ... When I came to rest and was upside down in the water, I realized it was a very serious situation and this could be the end. So it caused me to really take stock and do what I could, try to think rationally, do what do I need to do to get out of here."

He says his first instinct was to pray.

"(I just asked God), help me to be calm, help me to stay focused."

Goit said he tried to release himself from his seatbelt as water from the Nisqually River came rushing into his car. He said his foot was also stuck, but he worked it free. The only thing that kept him inside the car was the seatbelt.

Goit said he had to just stay calm until help arrived.

"I realized if I panicked, because I was having to hold my head above the water, so I'd have to reach over and somehow push myself up so I can continue to breathe because the water of the river was coming down and hitting me in the face. So I tried to release the button, I couldn't find the button. I had a knife in the car that I actually kept there if I ever got in that situation to cut the seatbelt, but I couldn't get to it."

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said, "Luckily the rescuers got this in the nick of time because they say that your head was starting to get under the water and they cut you out of there."

Goit said the accident has given him gratitude for the people who rescued him.

"There's just a number of people both Good Samaritans, other climbers that were coming down and the park rangers who got involved and risked their lives getting in the water to help me. Very thankful for all of those folks. I'm glad it was a rescue, and not a recovery. The ranger who actually came in the car with me to cut the seat belt, Peter Maggio, he actually put his life at risk because when he came in the car that could have caused us both to go down the river and we both could have drowned. So I'm very thankful to him that he was willing to do that."

For more with Goit, click on the video below.

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