Homeless man credited with saving woman from drowning in flooded culvert

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SALINAS, Calif. – A homeless man is being hailed as a hero after he saved a woman from drowning in a flooded culvert.

“If Rick wasn’t here, who knows what would’ve happened. She could’ve kept going and they might not have found neither of them and who knows what really would’ve happened and we’re just very thankful,” said Henry Azevedo, the ex-husband of Abby Valladarez.

Valladarez and her 8-year-old son, Mikey, were driving on Hwy 101 late Tuesday night when they were forced off the road and careened down an embankment.

Their car ended up underwater in a flooded culvert.

According to KSBW, Valladarez and the boy were able to get out of the car but were swept into large pipes and separated.

Mikey was rescued by nearby officers, but Valladarez was nowhere to be seen.

Investigators say she traveled the length of five football fields before she came out of a pipe near the homeless camp of Rick Biddle.

“The dog was going crazy in the tent, barking, and I knew something was wrong. Like I say, I got up and shined a light and I seen her head. She come out of the tunnel, out of the culvert, she’d been screaming the whole way through and I guess the dog heard it,” Biddle told KSBW.

He immediately grabbed his jacket and used it as a rope to keep Valladarez from continuing down the culvert.

Authorities say she grabbed on to one sleeve and he held on to the other, not letting go until police officers arrived.

“They said, ‘We’ve got your son, he’s alright.’ And she goes, ‘Don’t lie to me, don’t lie to me.’ And they said, ‘No, we’re not lying. We’ve got your son,” Biddle said.

Valladarez is still in the hospital recovering, but her ex-husband and son found Biddle and brought him several gifts of appreciation.

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