SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Spring Hill police officer who is also a Maury County firefighter came close to dying this past Sunday when his side-by-side Utility Terrain Vehicle overturned in about seven feet of water.
The first responder was trapped underwater for close to five minutes, but he survived to tell his miraculous story, thanks in large part to his firefighting girlfriend who wouldn’t allow him to die.
“The only explanation I can come to why he is still here with us is God. It’s a miracle. It’s an absolute miracle he is with us today,” said Sarah Ebbert.
It all happened Sunday evening in Hickman County where Ebbert and her 37-year-old boyfriend, Patrick Ryan, were off-roading with friends, who are also part of the first responder community.
“My front tire slid off into a hole,” said Ryan.
The long time Maury County firefighter and Spring Hill officer told News 2 the couple had been crossing creek beds much of the day, and they were only a few feet from the shore when the UTV flipped.
“I became trapped in my seatbelt.”
Ryan said years of first responder training kept him calm, as he managed his breathing while searching for a knife to cut the seat belt.
The officer said he could not locate his knife and was unable to press the button on the seat belt to free himself.
“I knew I was really in trouble then. I thought this is it,” Ryan said.
According to Ebbert, his girlfriend of eight months, the UTV had been swept by the current and was under about 7 feet of water.
“I remember I got out of my seatbelt. I had no trouble,” the 29-year-old Maury County firefighter said.
She got to the shore and waited for her boyfriend to surface. When he didn’t, she knew she had to act. “And I noticed he was not coming up. I knew he was in trouble, he was trapped.”
Ebbert said the water was dark and she couldn’t see anything, already thinking the worst since Ryan had been underwater a long time as she began her rescue attempts. “I thought he was gone, cause of how much time he spent underwater already.”
Ebbert said she dove into the pitch black water multiple times to find Ryan and the UTV.
Finally, she found him and freed him of the UTV. She got him to the surface where other members of their group helped get the 37-year-old to the shore.
Ebbert began CPR, “My instinct took over from the training I had.”
She did compressions and breathing and turned Ryan on his side. “All of a sudden as quick as it happened, he came back in that moment and everything was okay.”
Ryan remembers waking up to someone touching his arm and hearing sirens of arriving Hickman County rescue units.
“I got my composure and I’m like ‘I’m fine what are you all doing?’ And they’re like ‘we just did CPR on you for several minutes,’ and I was blown away.”
The couple laughed at this remembrance.
“I’m just so thankful and so blessed that he is okay,” said Ebbert
“She saved my life!” exclaimed Ryan before thanking Ebbert once more.
The two hugged for several moments.
“It brought us a lot closer. We were already close, but it’s definitely…I know how much she cares,” Ryan said.
When asked if this will make him a different first responder, Ryan said, “I’ve never thought of it as a big deal what we do; it’s just a job we do every day, but now seeing the other side of it, I see the impact we have on people’s lives.”
Ryan said he has no ill effects from his recent brush with death and he says he is ready to save lives again with a new point of view.
Ryan refused an ambulance ride Sunday evening, but later, as a precaution because of low oxygen levels, Ryan drove himself to Maury Regional where he spent two nights in the ICU.
He said he expects his doctor to give him full clearance to return to duty in the days to come.