Woman rescued from car submerged in canal facing DUI charge

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Jill Galus

Posted on July 31, 2013 at 6:40 AM

Updated Monday, Aug 5 at 8:23 AM

Map: 7th Ave. & Dunlap

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PHOENIX -- Police are trying to determine how a woman wound up sitting on top of her vehicle in the middle of a canal early Wednesday morning. That woman, 39-year-old Maria Estella Martinez-Hernandez, is now facing charges in connection with the incident.

It happened shortly after 2:30 a.m. in the area of Seventh and Dunlap avenues.

Brian Rexroad was heading home from work when he spotted a car swerving on Dunlap Avenue before stopping by the Arizona Canal. Something, however, told him to go back a take a closer look.

"It just didn't feel right," he said. "I'd feel bad if something happened and I found out about it later."

Rexroad called 911, summoning firefighters from Phoenix and Glendale to rescue the woman.

"He was an excellent citizen to observe," Phoenix Fire Capt Tony Muir said of Rexroad. "He called 911 and then he actually engaged. … Once he saw the vehicle go in the water, he came back to make sure she was OK."

When firefighters arrived on the scene, the woman was sitting calmly on top of her car, waiting for help.

Crews launched a water rescue, helping her to the bank. She did not appear to be injured, but it's not clear why she was driving erratically or how she ended up driving into the canal.

Muir said this is not the first time a vehicle has been submerged in the canal and that Wednesday morning's situation could have ended very differently.

"These are very, very dangerous canals," he explained. "We've had cars submerged over the years, and we've had fatalities."

A dive team searched the car to make sure nobody else was inside. The woman was alone. Police said she has been booked on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Once the sun came up, a tow truck arrived to haul the woman's car out of the canal.

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