SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Tennessee police officer who is also a firefighter came close to drowning after his side-by-side utility-terrain vehicle overturned in about 7 feet of water.
Spring Hill officer Patrick Ryan, 37, was trapped underwater for nearly five minutes, but he survived thanks in large part to his girlfriend, Sarah Ebbert, who, along with Ryan, is a Maury County firefighter.
“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 Ebbert.
On Sunday evening in Hickman County, Ebbert and 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.
He said 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,” he said.
Ryan said years of first responder training kept him calm as he managed his breathing while searching for a knife to cut the seatbelt.
He said he couldn’t find his knife and was unable to press the seatbelt button to free himself.
“I knew I was really in trouble then,” Ryan said. “I thought this is it.”
Ebbert, his girlfriend of eight months, said the UTV they were in 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 Ebbert said.
She got to the shore and waited for Ryan 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,” she said.
Ebbert said the water was dark and she couldn’t see anything. She was already thinking the worst since Ryan had been underwater a long time.
“I thought he was gone because of how much time he spent underwater already,” she said.
Ebbert said she dove into the pitch-black water multiple times to find Ryan and the UTV.
When she finally found him, she freed him and got him to the water’s surface, where other members of their group helped get him to shore.
Ebbert performed CPR. “My instinct took over from the training I had,” she said. “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?'” he said. “And they’re like, ‘We just did CPR on you for several minutes,’ and I was blown away.”
Ebbert said she was greatly relieved. “I’m just so thankful and so blessed that he is okay,” she said.
Ryan, thanking Ebbert once again, said, “She saved my life!”
Ryan said the experience brought the couple closer.
“We were already close, but it’s definitely … I know how much she cares,” he said.
Ryan, who spent two nights in a hospital intensive care unit, said he’s had no ill effects from his recent brush with death, adding that he is ready to save lives again with a new point of view.
“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,” he said.