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Miracle escape for nurse whose car is swept away in flood

A Dublin nurse struggled desperately to survive when a raging river engulfed a road and swept her car away during the recent flash floods.

Mother-of-two Samantha Byrne was plunged into a nightmare as the river spun her car around as it began sinking beneath the flooding torrents.

"I was afraid I was going to die," she said after she fought for her life against the icy waters.

Her ordeal happened in dense fog and almost total darkness. She left her home at 5.45am to drive to work to the Beacon Hospital in Sandyford, South County Dublin, but within minutes the Avoca river burst its banks and swallowed the route ahead of her.

The 39-year-old native of Shankill, Co Dublin, had left her house in Kilcarra, near Woodenbridge, Co Wicklow, and was driving on country roads in the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday last in her Peugeot 308.

"All of a sudden I was in the flood. I tried to reverse out of it but the ignition was gone.

"The water picked up the car and swung it around 'til I was facing the opposite direction...The water came three-quarters up the windscreen," she said.

"The water came pouring into the car. The windows wouldn't operate and I couldn't open the door with the pressure of the water outside," she said.

"The car was tilting forward as it sank...I was afraid I was going to die.

"But I was thinking of my children and of my husband and said to myself I have too much to live for," she said.

She began to kick the door of the car to try to open it. Luckily, she had decided that morning to wear Doc Marten boots because of the heavy snow and she finally managed to kick the door open and force herself out through the opening into the raging torrents of icy water.

"The water was up to my chest and it was freezing. Everything was pitch black and I couldn't see a thing. I didn't know which way to go. It was freezing cold," she said.

She began to wade through the waters along the road in the mistaken belief she was heading for home. In fact, she was walking blindly in the opposite direction in the dense fog and total darkness.

"I was screaming every step of the way. I kept going onwards through the water.

"The car had completely disappeared under the surface and there was no trace of it for hours," she said. "I could have drowned."

Warning

Samantha who managed to use her mobile to tell her husband Martin what was happening, emerged from the floodwaters further down the road and was rescued by a newspaper delivery van driver.

As the road was completely impassable, he drove along an alternative route to bring her to Woodenbridge where her husband Martin (41), and children David (9) and Heather (4), were waiting for her.

Martin, a carpenter and a Kilcarra native, then took responsibility for warning the public himself by standing on the approach route to the flood from 7.45am and stopping motorists, after gardai told him a patrol was not available.

He estimated more than 60 cars turned around to avoid the route in the two hours that he remained at the scene.