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By Debra McKinney Banks
While enjoying the scenery at a local pond — just hours before that evening’s Revelation Today Boston presentation — Cesar Perozo’s afternoon took a shocking turn when he made a split-second decision to assist a woman whose SUV plunged into the cold waters on October 14.
Perozo, who is pastor of the Stoneham church in Stoneham, Massachusetts, was with a friend at Spy Pond in Arlington, Massachusetts, when 68-year-old Helen Joyce’s SUV careened down the embankment. Perozo’s friend called 911 while Perozo jumped into the water to rescue the driver. Bystanders recorded the incident and yelled instructions to Perozo as he swam toward the vehicle that was quickly filling up with water in the middle of the pond, where maximum depth is 36 feet.
|Pastor Cesar Perozo and several other individuals help woman from her sinking SUV in Spy Pond (Mass.).
Photo by the Arlington Police Department
“I had to do something to save whoever it was in that car,” Perozo told John Bradsaw, speaker/director of It Is Written. He dived into the 103-acre great pond and swam towards the car, which was drifting further away from the shore.
As he swam, Perozo thought, If I can just get her out of the car, somehow, I think I can rescue her. As he neared Joyce and saw her banging on the window, he realized she was not able to get out on her own. Finding an unlocked door, Perozo is heard yelling on a video shot at the scene, “You gotta come out!” as water quickly flooded into the vehicle cabin.
“For a moment I didn’t think I’d be able to get out to her,” Perozo told Bradshaw. “The car ended up about 50 yards from the shore. The challenge was that I couldn’t swim like I normally did because my clothing was dragging me down.”
Joyce was afraid, repeating again and again that she couldn’t swim and wanted to stay in the car. As Perozo opened the only door that wasn’t submerged, water rushed into the car.
Perozo kept telling her, “I’ve got you, I’ll help you,” knowing he only had a few seconds before the car went under.
Fatigue set in. “For a moment I didn’t think I’d be able to get her out. I was so exhausted. My muscles felt like they were seizing up.”
Perozo managed to grab her hand and began pulling her from the sinking SUV when suddenly she was snatched away and pulled under as the vehicle sank into the deep waters. “I didn’t know if she got out [of the car], or was she sucked back into the vehicle,” Perozo recalled. “I had such a good, firm grip. I had her!”
Meanwhile, David Frasier of Boxford, Massachusetts, was swimming toward the accident to offer assistance. Perozo, devastated, exhausted, and cold, sadly began swimming toward the shore. Suddenly, Joyce’s head emerges from the water and the bystanders yelled, “There she is!”
Frasier took over and pushed a seat cushion that had become dislodged from the SUV toward Joyce, instructing her to grab it and use as a floatation device. Fraiser was later assisted by Kenneth Chapman of Sydney, Australia, to bring Joyce to shore. Chapman was the third person to jump in to assist the woman.
Perozo, in shock from the encounter, wanted to go home, warm up, and tell his wife and foster daughter about the day’s events. He initially requested anonymity and declined to be contacted by the media so he could have some time to gather his thoughts. “I was just trying to catch my breath. I couldn’t think straight; there was so much adrenaline,” Perozo said. The next day, he contacted the Arlington police giving them permission to release his name as one of those who assisted the victim.
“I trust that God is always at work,” says Perozo. Back on shore, the rescuers stood with Joyce wrapped in blankets, holding hands while Fraiser prayed. Perozo remembers Joyce’s grip leaving his hand. “I felt terrible as I lost her,” he said. “As we all prayed together, I was holding her hand. I remember praising the Lord that I got to hold that hand again; and that she is alive.”
As a pastor and evangelist, Perozo has given his life to doing all he can to save others. But his mission as a rescuer took on a whole new meaning after the Sky Pond incident as he ended up in a place he normally wouldn’t have gone. “I was there on a friend’s recommendation to check out photography locations for the church school. God had me in the right place at the right time.”
The Revelation Today meetings continued in Stoneham — and in other locations.
— Debra McKinney Banks, communication assistant, Atlantic Union Conference; additional information gathered from It Is Written and local reports.
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