VINCE BOND JR.

Auto exec gets early Halloween scare in New Jersey floods

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Craig Lockerd compares his terrifying brush with Sandy to a bad Lifetime movie, so we’ll call it The Horror in Somers Point, N.J.

During a somewhat calm moment during the storm Monday night, the 61-year-old president of Automax Recruiting and Training in New Jersey decided to head to nearby Ventnor City, N.J., to check on his son’s property. Once he hit road, however, he realized he wouldn’t be able to get there, so he turned back.

Lockerd founded Automax, a dealership staffing company, 14 years ago and has been involved in the car business nearly four decades.

While driving down a side road he takes every day, about five minutes from his home, Lockerd encountered a seemingly harmless pool of water after crossing a bridge and attempted to drive through it.

Then he got the scare of his life.

“I don’t know if the water washed away the road underneath. All I knew, in a matter of seconds, I was in water up to my door window. It was pretty terrifying,” he said.

Water began infiltrating the crevices of Lockerd’s Mercedes as it pulled him toward the bay he had just crossed.

While on the phone with 911, the water level rose steadily and forced him to crouch on the car seat.

The dispatcher told him to bust the windshield. But he couldn’t, because that would have allowed even more water in.

Lockerd’s vehicle was about 12 feet into the bay at this point, and he was dreading the swim back to land because of the strong current.

“It was about 3 feet worth of air left in the car, basically. It was pretty horrifying. I didn’t have a lot of Plan B’s,” Lockerd recalled.

About 25 minutes after getting trapped, a crew of volunteer firefighters came to Lockerd’s aid, in what he called a miracle.

The firefighters were from another town and just happened to be nearby when the dispatcher alerted them.

He said the firefighters linked themselves together and reached out to him with a long pole and dragged him until he could stand up.

“I’m not afraid of a whole heck of a lot of things,” he said, “but that’s one I’m going to remember for awhile.”

Cue the triumphant music. Roll the credits.

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter

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