Orlando reporter reunites with woman he rescued from floodwaters

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It’s the video being shared around the world — the heroic rescue of a woman stranded in waist-high flood waters in Downtown Orlando.WESH 2 News reporter Tony Atkins made the courageous move to wade through the water and make the daring rescue. On Friday, he got to meet the woman who he carried on his back to safety, Tonya McCullough.”Thank you,” she said. “I didn’t get a chance to say thank you in all the madness, I appreciate you.”It was an emotional reunion of two strangers brought together in a time of need during Hurricane Ian.McCullough is a nurse. She was on her way to work in the overnight hours as Ian unleashed relentless rain on Central Florida.”It was dark and rainy and gloomy, and you have no idea how deep that was,” she said. “I realized I can’t drive through this and I tried to back up, the water is filling up the inside of the car.”Atkins, alongside his photojournalist Jerry Clearman, had been covering the storm for hours and knew the conditions along Orlando Avenue.”I had been there all morning, so I had an idea that it was safe. I didn’t see power lines, I didn’t see animals, I also didn’t see anyone else, and that’s why I jumped into it.”McCullough knew she had to get the window down as the waters continued to rise. Atkins was there every step of the way. “I climbed out the window — didn’t realize I could climb out the window,” she said.”She came out the window so quickly too, it was like seamless,” Atkins said.”Didn’t know I could get out that fast,” McCullough said. “You climb out, but I was perplexed when you handed me the purse,” Atkins laughed. “And I’m like, ‘sure I’ll take the purse.'” “He was there for me — he’s my knight in shining armor – he was there to rescue me,” McCullough said. She has a beautiful family that includes two sons, a daughter and two grandchildren that all waited for her return home. “I was sad, and I made her a card to make sure she was feeling better,” one grandchild told WESH 2. There were even cards of appreciation for Tony. “‘I love you, mister Tony’ — I get to put this at my desk,” Atkins says, showing off his card.Tonya’s son Stephon is in the air force and FaceTimed the family. “We are actually talking to my commander about getting you a medal to say thank you,” he said. “Continue to do what you do,” McCullough told Atkins. “Show the love that you have, continue to be helpful because you never know when someone like me will need that and appreciate that – I am so thankful.”

It’s the video being shared around the world — the heroic rescue of a woman stranded in waist-high flood waters in Downtown Orlando.

WESH 2 News reporter Tony Atkins made the courageous move to wade through the water and make the daring rescue. On Friday, he got to meet the woman who he carried on his back to safety, Tonya McCullough.

“Thank you,” she said. “I didn’t get a chance to say thank you in all the madness, I appreciate you.”

It was an emotional reunion of two strangers brought together in a time of need during Hurricane Ian.

McCullough is a nurse. She was on her way to work in the overnight hours as Ian unleashed relentless rain on Central Florida.

“It was dark and rainy and gloomy, and you have no idea how deep that was,” she said. “I realized I can’t drive through this and I tried to back up, the water is filling up the inside of the car.”

Atkins, alongside his photojournalist Jerry Clearman, had been covering the storm for hours and knew the conditions along Orlando Avenue.

“I had been there all morning, so I had an idea that it was safe. I didn’t see power lines, I didn’t see animals, I also didn’t see anyone else, and that’s why I jumped into it.”

McCullough knew she had to get the window down as the waters continued to rise. Atkins was there every step of the way.

“I climbed out the window — didn’t realize I could climb out the window,” she said.

“She came out the window so quickly too, it was like seamless,” Atkins said.

“Didn’t know I could get out that fast,” McCullough said.

“You climb out, but I was perplexed when you handed me the purse,” Atkins laughed. “And I’m like, ‘sure I’ll take the purse.'”

“He was there for me — he’s my knight in shining armor – he was there to rescue me,” McCullough said.

She has a beautiful family that includes two sons, a daughter and two grandchildren that all waited for her return home.

“I was sad, and I made her a card to make sure she was feeling better,” one grandchild told WESH 2.

There were even cards of appreciation for Tony.

“‘I love you, mister Tony’ — I get to put this at my desk,” Atkins says, showing off his card.

Tonya’s son Stephon is in the air force and FaceTimed the family.

“We are actually talking to my commander about getting you a medal to say thank you,” he said.

“Continue to do what you do,” McCullough told Atkins. “Show the love that you have, continue to be helpful because you never know when someone like me will need that and appreciate that – I am so thankful.”



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