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Her guardian angel rescued her from a sinking car. Now, she knows who he is

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 5/29/2018 By Aric Chokey, Sun Sentinel
a man standing in front of a building: Fabio Franca greets Alice Modine, 94, at her Boca Raton house. Modine drove her car into a pond Friday and was rescued by an unknown man. But the two came into contact this weekend, talked on the phone and finally got to meet each other in person. © Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS Fabio Franca greets Alice Modine, 94, at her Boca Raton house. Modine drove her car into a pond Friday and was rescued by an unknown man. But the two came into contact this weekend, talked on the phone and finally got to meet each other in person.

The last time Alice Modine saw her "guardian angel," he was pulling her out of her car before it sank into a lake.

"Is that him?" the 94-year-old Boca Raton resident excitedly asked as she peered through her front door Sunday afternoon.

The man, Fabio Franca, approached with his wife Victoria and youngest son Joshua. Modine met Franca with a hug and words of thanks.

"You were the guardian angel that looks out for me," Modine told Franca as the two sat in Modine's living room. "'Helping' is an understatement."

Modine was driving on Glades Road during a heavy rain when she decided to pull over to wait for the storm to subside on May 19.

But instead of stopping on the shoulder, she ended up hopping a curb and driving her 2007 Toyota Corolla into a lake near the Hilton Boca Raton Suites hotel.

Franca, a 46-year-old Deerfield Beach resident, was driving near Modine and said he thought something was wrong when he saw her start to drive slowly and then pull over.

"I'm familiar with that area so I thought 'There's nothing there but a lake,'" Franca recalled. "The reason I went back was because I was like 'Man, that could be my grandma.'"

So, he pulled over, rushed out of his car and ran toward the lake, pulling off his shoes and taking out his cell phone and other electronics.

"I knew where I was going, so there was no second thought," Franca said.

His eldest son, who is 17, also ran to the lake with him and tried to call 911. Joshua, the youngest sibling, stayed in the car.

When Franca got to Modine's car, the front of the vehicle was mostly submerged, and the water was up to Modine's chest. Modine said she couldn't open her doors or windows and felt her car sinking.

"I hadn't panicked," Modine said. "I figured I'm quite old, I've had a wonderful life, no regrets. I wasn't ready to go, but I figured if this is my time, so be it."

Franca managed to get the doors open and carried Modine out of the lake.

Modine said she didn't get a chance to properly thank Franca after the incident. Wet and cold, he had left the scene soon after paramedics arrived.

But days later, Modine's granddaughter tracked down Franca, and they arranged to meet.

At their first meeting Sunday, the Franca family sat with Modine, talking about the rescue and what they remembered from that day.

Joshua Franca said he saw a hubcap come off of Modine's car after she hopped the curb.

"The only thing I saw was the car going off of the side of the road," he said.

Franca said he was on his way to get lunch with Victoria but called her to tell her what happened.

"I was like, 'Are you OK?'" she recalled.

Franca said it was serendipitous that he was on the road at that time. He had just dropped his third son off at an appointment, which had been delayed by about 15 minutes.

"Sometimes things happen for a reason," Franca said.

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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