Abby Valladrez, 28, was driving home along Highway 101 in California with her eight year old son, Mikey Azevedo, after visiting her grandfather who had recently suffered a massive heart attack. As she neared the overpass at North Sanborn, she was forced off the road.
Their car veered off the road and sped down an embankment before landing in the bottom a flooded culvert. Although Valladrez and her son managed to get out of the car, they were swept away by the fast-moving water in the culvert and into large pipes that directed water under the highway.
According to investigators, Valladrez and her son travelled a distance of more than the length of five football fields in the pipes before they finally emerged.
At the right place at the right time
When Valladarez and her son emerged from the pipes late that Tuesday night, they were spotted by a homeless man, Rick Biddle. He had set up camp in the area and the mother and child had emerged near the camp. Biddle sprang into action and pulled the woman and her child out of the storm canal. He was assisted by Chad Cavender, a California Highway Patrol Officer.
“Abby and my son would have surely died if Rick hadn’t been there,” says Henry Azevedo, Valladarez’s ex-husband. “She may have kept on going and no one would have found them. I am so thankful to Ricky for his kindness.”
Mikey emerged from the incident with a few cuts and bruises. “I don’t know how to swim,” says Mikey. “I thought I was going to die for sure. I kept yelling. I hoped that someone would hear me and come find me.”
His mother however, was rushed to hospital having swallowed water and mud. Officials say she is recovering well.
An emotional meeting
On the afternoon of the day following the incident, the family of the victims came out to find Ricky at his homeless camp. They wanted to show their appreciation to the man that had saved Valladarez and her son.
The meeting was emotional for all of them. “Your mother didn’t think of anything else except you,” Rickey told Mikey when they met again. “I am so glad she’s all right. She travelled over half a mile through those pipes in the darkness.”
The family continues to collect donations towards helping Ricky get back on his feet. They set up a Go Fund Me page for this.