Mike Wilson, a retired captain from the Apex Police Department, was riding along Apex Barbecue Road with his wife Saturday afternoon when he suddenly yelled for her to stop.
She didn’t stop fast enough for Wilson, who jumped out of the car while it was still moving and ran down an embankment to the creek below, Town Manager Bruce Radford said.
Wilson had spotted a car flipped over in Beaver Creek. The driver, Shannon Clayborne, apparently had driven off the road at the bridge near the Holland Crossing neighborhood about 3:40 p.m., and the Wilsons drove by a short time later, according to the town.
Clayborne had gotten out of her car but couldn’t make it back to shore through the deep and frigid water. Wilson went to retrieve her from a sandbar, despite having injured his leg climbing down to the water.
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But Clayborne couldn’t walk, and the water was too deep for Wilson to carry her.
Radford said Wilson’s feet kept sinking into the mud, and even though he’s more than 6 feet tall, he couldn’t keep his head above water. Wilson took her back to the sandbar and decided there was only one safe option, Radford said.
Wilson picked up Clayborne and “tossed” her to shore, according to a town news release. An unnamed driver, who had stopped to help, brought her onto land.
With the young woman still in shock, Wilson dived back into the creek to search the submerged car for other passengers. There were none.
By the time Wilson got back on shore, he was showing signs of hypothermia, Radford said. Clayborne was not injured.
“Capt. Wilson instinctively put helping others before his own safety and reflects the highest traditions of the Apex Police Department and the law enforcement profession,” Apex Police Chief John Lettney said in the news release.
Radford said several drivers drove past without stopping, so it was crucial that Wilson was there. He said the town is creating an award to present to Wilson at the Town Council meeting on Feb. 3.
Wilson will be at the meeting, award or not. He provides security at all the meetings and, during the day, serves as the school resource officer for all Apex elementary schools.
He retired from the police force in 2010 after 25 years of service.
Police Department spokeswoman Capt. Ann Stephens said Wilson has requested not to speak publicly about the rescue.
“He is very humble about the event and his actions,” she said.