'It's up to me': 80-year-old man rescues driver whose car was sinking in canal

An 80-year-old California man rushed to the aid of another man trapped in his car as it was sinking in a canal.


An 80-year-old California, man rushed to the aid of another man trapped in his car as it was sinking in a canal Thursday morning.

Steve Montelongo, of Modesto, had just finished taking his granddaughter to the dentist. They were on their way home just after 10 a.m. when they stopped at a traffic light.

"Then she says, 'Oh my god. A car just went into the canal, grandpa,'" Montelongo said.

He said he pulled over, parked his car and ran to the edge of the water.

"I see about 20 people gathered there. The guy's still in the car." So he said to himself, "I guess it's up to me."

Montelongo jumped into the water.

"The first thing that came to my mind is: 'I hope one of the doors was open, right?' And the back door was open," he said. "When I opened the door, it gushed in and it pulled me, it actually pulled me towards the car and I fell back against the car and I tried to get my balance, still with my sight on the man, making sure he wouldn't go under," Montelongo added. "I literally yanked him out, just praying that T-shirt wouldn't rip off right there, you know?"

Montelongo said the driver was alert and conscious when he pulled him from that car.

This was not the first time Montelongo saved someone's life. In 2003, he received the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission medal for extraordinary acts of heroism when he saved two neighbors in their 80s from their burning home.

"Heard the explosion, ran over to see what was going on. I thought it was my house. It was the neighbor’s house," he recalled. "Ran over there. My son was trying to get in the door. He couldn't, so I said, 'Move, let me try.'"

He was able to get inside and rescue a woman from the burning home. Then he headed back in to save a man.

The rescue at the canal is Montelongo's third life he saved. Although he's being called a hero again, this 80-year-old said he's no hero. He said he was just in the right place at the right time.