Massive flooding in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania on June 20, left a lot of residents scrambling to safety. The downpour dumped over four inches of rain, which made conditions hazardous.
Ben Smith, 18, was helping his neighbors when he got the scare of a lifetime. While trying to clear debris from a storm drain, the teen slipped on a piece of wood, causing him to lose his balance and be swept away by the rushing water.
Smith was sucked into a storm drain.
“We were trying to move a van away from it and clear some debris. I went to go after this wood panel and my foot slipped and I just went right under,” Smith said to WPXI.
Neighbors tried to pull Smith out, but the rush of water was too much to overcome. The teen, an Eagle Scout, had no other recourse but to hold his breath and hope for the best.
“It teaches you to be prepared for any sort of circumstance that comes your way,” Smith said. “I knew going against the water would not work at all. So I just tucked in and hoped I could end up somewhere.”
As Smith raced through the drain beneath the surface, a panic ensued among those living in his neighborhood. Everyone wanted to help get him but were unsure of what to do as he’d disappeared from sight.
Smith passed through a bubble of air that allowed him to take another breath.
“I just tried to keep my legs straight. I tucked my head down. I didn’t want to break my neck or anything,” Smith said to CBS Pittsburgh. “I just kind of tucked in for the long haul.”
Smith’s body took a beating as he bounced against walls of the drain. He was weakened and exhausted and wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to hold his breath.
“It was very cold,” he said. “I felt my head hit a few times. My body was getting weak. I was just getting tired. Part of me just prayed and hoped that I see the end.”
That’s when he started to see light. Just as he was reaching the end of his rope, the drain spat him out into a retention pond.
Smith had been carried about 100 yards by the storm drain and said it lasted about a minute.
“I came out of the pipe and I felt my foot kind of hit the air, I felt the cold air, and as I came up, I saw the lights from the backyard of my neighbor’s house,” Smith said.
“Got up, started to walk towards the street, and a bunch of people were coming around, saying someone fell into the sewer, I was like, ‘That was me.'”
Miraculously, Smith emerged from the entire ordeal with only minor scrapes, cuts, and bruising. His body was sore, but all things considered, he felt lucky to have suffered so few injuries.
The teen credited his training from the Boy Scouts, where he learned about swift water survival. He also felt as though he’d received some help from above.
“At the time, I was in shock, makes you believe there’s a higher power,” said Smith.