New York Man Saves Mystery Taxi Driver During Superstorm

Jon Candelaria rushed into chest-deep water to save a stranded taxi driver.

November 2, 2012, 4:59 PM

Nov. 2, 2012 — -- As superstorm Sandy's winds and rain hit Manhattan, a man spotted a taxi trapped in the street. The water around it was getting higher and higher. When he realized the driver was still in the car, he rushed to help.

Jon Candelaria, a 25-year-old who works in accounting, was in his apartment near the East River, looking out the window as the streets below filled with water. He saw the taxi do a 360-degree turn and end up in the rising flood. Candelaria, dressed in basketball shorts, threw on a jacket and sneakers and rushed down into the street.

"It was so dangerous but it didn't even matter to me," he told ABC News. "All that mattered was, not even my own life, but just getting this guy out of the car and saving his life. That's all that mattered."

Watch the full story on this and other Sandy heroes on "20/20: Heroes Among Us" TONIGHT at 10 ET.

Candelaria said the water was chest-deep and freezing.

"When I got down there and I started walking through the water, then it hit me. I could pretty much die right now," he said. "I thought about my daughter and I told myself, if anything was to happen to me, I know my family could take care of her. I know that for a fact."

He could see the cab rocking and briefly thought about how he could be electrocuted by falling power lines, but pushed that thought from his mind and kept going. When he got to the driver, the water was already up to his chin.

"I'm glad I got there on time. I guess five more minutes and he would've been drowning," he said. "I put him on this shoulder. I was like, 'Please don't panic, don't freak out. The water is very high.' And he was like, 'All right.'"

Candelaria said he struggled to carry the man in the flood, his energy draining.

"But I was like, 'I can't stop in the middle of the water. What am I going to do? We could both die,'" he recalled. "So I just kept going with everything I had. Kept pushing. Every little energy, every little strength I had. I just kept going."

Candelaria's neighbor Rita Callahan saw the rescue.

"I live on the fifth floor. He lives on seven and he beat me," she said. "He was out there and he just did it. That's a hero. A hero doesn't think about himself. He thinks about helping people."

When they made it back, the two men took a moment to pose for a photo together before going their separate ways. Candelaria said he does not even know the taxi driver's name.

"I wasn't trying to be a hero," he said. "I just couldn't watch a man die in front of me. I wouldn't be able to live with myself for the rest of my life, knowing I could've done something and I didn't do it...For me that was my life-changing event. I had two so far -- watching my daughter come into this world and saving a man's life."

Watch the full story on this and other Sandy heroes on "20/20: Heroes Among Us" TONIGHT at 10 ET.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events