ISP Trooper, Vallonia woman recall water rescue


A Vallonia woman says someone was watching over her the day she was saved from her sinking car.

At 2:53 p.m. Nov. 22, Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer for the Indiana State Police Post at Versailles Post, responded to a call of an accident involving Megan Elizabeth Ora Fleetwood, 23, of Vallonia.

Fleetwood’s car had left the road and went into a pond as she was driving south in the 8700 block of North State Road 11, north of Seymour.

When he received the dispatch, Wheeles was assisting another trooper on the interstate with the reconstruction of an accident that had happened two days earlier.

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The 911 call had been made by retired Seymour Firefighter Troy Nichalson, who was driving behind Fleetwood’s silver Hyundai Sonata when it went off the road.

Fleetwood said she was having eye issues just before the incident.

"I was driving home from work (in Columbus) and my contact started bothering me," Fleetwood said. "I rubbed my eye, and my contact ended up falling out. I don’t really remember what happened after that. One minute I was on the road and the next I was in the water."

The 2015 Brownstown Central High School grad, who can’t swim, said everything happened quickly, and she realized what had happened when the water was up to her seat.

"I took swimming lessons as a kid and it didn’t work," she said. "It was genuine fear. I couldn’t get out. The power windows had already stopped working. It was just panic."

As the front of the car sank, Fleetwood retreated to the back window of her car.

Fleetwood said she saw Nichalson before Wheeles arrived, and he asked her how many passengers were in the vehicle.

When Wheeles pulled up to the scene, he took off his equipment belt, took a hammer from Nichalson, jumped into the pond and broke the back window to free Fleetwood. He said it took one hit, with his hand going right through the glass.

As the two made it back to shore, members of the Seymour Police Department had arrived on the scene. Officer Gilbert Carpenter and Sgt. Ryan Huddleston helped the two on shore. Members of the Indiana State Police, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and Seymour Fire Department also responded to the scene.

During the rescue, Wheeles suffered injuries to his hand and arm.  Both Fleetwood and Wheeles were treated by medical personnel with Jackson County Emergency Medical Services and taken to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.  

Wheeles said the water was very cold, and that Fleetwood had a lot of physical and mental strength to overcome her situation in the vehicle.

At the hospital, the two realized they knew each other. Wheeles lives in the same area as Fleetwood, and the two had met during a church activity in the past.

Fleetwood said Carpenter also visited her at the ER, and that her father was friends with him growing up.

Wheeles said the rescue was a team effort by first responders, and that he was just doing his job.

"Hundreds of thousands of people in my situation would have done the same thing," he said. "It is something we train for and do on a daily basis."

Fleetwood said she’s eternally grateful for everyone who helped save her, and that she has been in contact with multiple people that had responded to the incident.

She said she and her family have determined it wasn’t just the first responders that helped save her that day.

"My mom passed away last year," Fleetwood said. "We believe in guardian angels. It was like someone was watching over me."

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