When Corion Evans saw three people at a party, the 16-year-old never imagined he would save their lives a few hours later. But that's what happened early Sunday when a car drove off a boat launch into a river in southern Mississippi. The high school student jumped into the Pascagoula River around 2:30am after seeing the car plunge into the waters from the boat ramp under Interstate 10. Three young women he'd seen at a nearby party on Saturday had been in the car. They all had gone to a gathering spot near the boat ramp after the party ended, per the AP. Corion ran downhill toward the water as fast as he could, noting he saw the car in the water and heard them calling for help. "I just took my shirt off, took my shoes off and threw my phone and I jumped in the water,” Corion said.
Undeterred by the dark water, Corion headed straight into the river. Later he learned that alligators live in the river and its bayous. "I was scared, but I just focused on keeping everybody calm," he said. The three young women climbed out of the passenger window, WLOX-TV reported. At least one of them managed to get onto the roof of the car. As another struggled to tread water, she managed to hold one hand in the air and call the police. Moss Point police officer Gary Mercer was dispatched to the scene and said Corion was already in the water when he arrived. Mercer said he jumped into the river and began assisting one of the teenagers, who said she couldn't swim. After Mercer tried to carry the girl on his back, she panicked and caused him to go underwater. "He was trying to come back up but kept swallowing water," Corion said. Corion then helped Mercer and the woman reach the shore.
The driver said she was following her GPS and didn't realize she was headed for the water's edge, per a Moss Point Police Department release. "It's no lights down here ... so everything was just pitch black," Cora Watson, 19, told WLOX. "The GPS thought we [were] on top of the interstate." Corion attributes his physical strength to playing high school football and his swimming experience. He said he learned how to swim as a 3-year-old in his grandmother's pool. On Tuesday, the Moss Point mayor and board of aldermen presented Corion with a certificate of commendation for his actions; the young women gave Corion a gift basket complete with bags of Life Savers candy. Corion, who will be a senior at Pascagoula High School in the fall, wants to study physical therapy or sports medicine in college. A GoFundMe page has been started to help pay his tuition, which he's calling a "blessing."
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