Chichester canal car crash hero tells of daring rescue

A Sunday stroll along Chichester canal turned sour for Daniel Johnson as he came across a car in the water — and two passengers trapped inside.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 3:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 3:08 pm
Daniel Johnson at the scene of the crash
Daniel Johnson at the scene of the crash

He had been at a friends house watching a football match and was walking home along the scenic waterway when he came across the incident at the end of South Bank at about 6pm on January 26.

Reliving the night, the Lennox Road resident said: "It was that night where there was really torrential rain and I just saw this car in the canal. I instantly got my phone out and called the police.

"Within a second I realised the doors were still closed and thought there must be people still in there. At that point, it was so dark I couldn't really see, so I shone my torch over the car and noticed a woman's head was in the back seat at the back window."

The car in the water

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Car crashes into Chichester canal

"It was lucky I even looked up. I have no idea how long they were in there for."

The front of the car was fully submerged and the man and woman had crawled into the back to 'escape drowning'.

The woman screamed for help, Daniel said, as he told the emergency call handler there were people trapped in the car. The handler advised him not to go into the water.

Emergency services at the scene. Picture by Jack Chiverton

"The lady screamed that her husband was drowning so I told [the call handler] that I had to go in."

"There was no way he was getting out of that car by himself. I don't even know if he could open the door by himself. I tried to pull the lady out by her legs but she was in pain so I didn't —they had been in a car crash I didn't know what was wrong with them.

"I made sure that the man was safe. When he was sitting on the bank I went round to the middle [of the car]. I swum round to the other side. I said to her 'right, I'm going to try and pull you out by your hands, and at that point I realised that I've got all my clothes on and if I pull her out this way we are probably both going to drown."

The car being lifted out of the water

As he returned to the bank of the canal, the emergency services began to arrive. A police officer joined Daniel in the water as the pair worked to rescue the woman.

"The moment I got out and it was over — I'd never been so cold. I was probably in there for about 20 minutes.

"I like to think if anyone saw what I saw they would jump in as well and help because when you're in that situation you just do it. You don't really even think about it.

"Afterwards it's like 'wow', I can't believe I did that."

He arrived home to his fiancé Stephanie Bonner in the hospital gown. Stephanie said she is 'so proud' of Daniel.

Dan and the couple were taken to St Richard's Hospital and only minor injuries were reported.