LAKE MARY, F.L. - A malfunctioning GPS led Hunter Haire and his buddies on a lifesaving journey. Haire, Zach Sawin and four other friends, all former Lake Mary athletes home from college for winter break, were riding around Lake Mary on the night of Dec. 15. They were looking for another friend's house when the GPS led them astray.
They stopped in the parking lot of Reflection Lake, located about a mile west of Lake Mary High School on Green Way Boulevard in Lake Mary, when Sawin noticed a car bobbing in the lake about 50 yards offshore, its headlights reflecting off the water.
"There was no time to think," said Haire, a freshman kicker on Wake Forest's football team. "I was the first one in the water. When I got to the car, the driver was still sitting there with his hands on the steering wheel. I got him to roll down the passenger window a little, then I was able to reach in and crank it all the way down."
By that time, Sawin, a freshman offensive lineman at Colgate, had reached the car, a gray 2008 Mazda. Haire climbed through the window because the water pressure wouldn't allow them to open the door, and he unhooked the seat belt.
Sawin reached in, grabbed driver Miguel Hernandez, 23, of Lake Mary by his shoulders and pulled him out. Haire and Sawin got him to the shore.
"It was like he [the driver] was in shock," Sawin said.
The four other friends, Mike D'Agostino, Kyle Swink, Dave Moore and Mark Lang, who also dove into the lake, checked the car to make sure nobody else was inside. Within less than a minute, the car sunk to the bottom, 10 to 15 feet below the surface.
"I just hope these guys know how grateful I am, and my whole family is, that they were willing to get out of their car and put their lives on the line to help my brother out," said Manny Hernandez, 24. "My brother feels like God personally reached out and saved his life. It's given him a whole new perspective on things.
"I went to the lake that night hoping to thank them and shake their hands, but when I got there, they had already left. I haven't had a chance to tell them how grateful I am. I just want to thank them somehow.
"They are exemplary young men in our society," Hernandez said.
Swink said he barely had climbed out of the car before it sank.
"I wasn't any more than four or five yards away [when it went under]," said Swink, a lacrosse player at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C., and whose family lives nearby and often fishes in the lake.
The Seminole County Sheriff's Department dispatched officer Jeremiah Brown to the scene at 11:07. By the time he arrived one minute later, Haire and Sawin had Hernandez on shore.
"Something like this really puts everything in perspective, especially around the holidays," Sawin said. "It was definitely a very enlightening experience. If the GPS had not broken, if we didn't stop at the lake, if it had been a few minutes later, things could have been much different."
Although the air temperature was in the mid-40s and the water was cold, Sawin said they didn't hesitate.
"It wasn't until it was over and the adrenaline wore off that we started freezing," he said.
Lang and Moore are lacrosse players at Saint Leo University.
"It was pure coincidence that we were there when we were,'' Lang said. "Five minutes later, and the car would have sunk and the guy would have been dead."
Said Moore: "You always wonder what would have happened if we didn't pull into that parking lot when we did. It feels good knowing he is alive and safe."
Haire doesn't consider himself and his friends to be heroes.
"That's for everyone else to decide," Haire said. "As far as I'm concerned, we were just doing the right thing."