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Woman Reported Dead During Flood Speaks Out: ‘I’m Alive’

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Abandoned cars are completely under water on I-696. (Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

Abandoned cars are completely under water on I-696. (Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ/AP) - A woman who city officials said died in massive flooding this week in the Detroit area has a message to share.

“I’m alive,” Jena David says.

Warren Fire Chief David Frederick had said someone pulled a Sterling Heights woman from her car Monday and carried her into a nearby business. She was unconscious when firefighters arrived and placed her in an emergency vehicle.

Speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950 a day after the flooding, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said the woman died amid record-breaking rainfall. WWJ and CBSDetroit.com had reported that the woman was dead based on the false information.

“It probably was storm related,” Fouts said. “They found her trapped in her car with three-and-a-half feet of water, so that obviously played a role.”

It was later determined that the woman had “died of a seizure” in her car, according to a city of Warren news release.

But, as it turns out, David, 30, regained consciousness in her hospital bed. Doctors discharged the Wayne State University psychology student, and her father drove her home.

David saw a news report about a 30-year-old woman who had died after being carried into a Buddy’s Pizza location by an unknown man.

Then, it dawned on her: “They’re talking about me. Everyone thinks I’m dead,” she told The Detroit News.

“Now, my friends don’t believe me when I tell them I’m the girl who supposedly died at the Buddy’s Pizza,” she said, calling it “a strange kind of feeling.”

In the confusion, officials mistakenly reported the death, said Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso.

“I got the information from the fire department that the woman had died, and then I relayed it to the media,” Galasso said. “It wasn’t our case, but that’s what we were told. Then (on Thursday), I got a call from our fire commissioner, who tells me: ‘You know that lady who died at Buddy’s? Well, she just walked into Buddy’s looking for her property. She’s not dead. She wanted to know if anyone had her purse.”‘

Two people died in the flood: 100-year-old Julia Sarno, who drowned in the water-filled basement of her Warren home; and an unnamed 68-year-old Warren man who died while pushing his car on a flooded Oak Park street. Those deaths have been confirmed by coroners.

David said she would like to meet the man who possibly saved her life by pulling her out of the car as well as the others who aided her in the restaurant.

“God bless you,” she said of the stranger. “I’m very grateful that you were there.”

Monday’s record-breaking storm dumped more than 6 inches of rain in some places.

The storms left five major freeways under several feet of water, forcing thousands of people to abandon their water-logged cars. MDOT estimates it will cost around half-a-million dollars by the time all cleanup and repairs are complete.

Tens of thousands of homes across the metro area were flooded, some with several feet of water in the basements.

The National Weather Service said 4.57 inches of rain fell at Detroit Metro Airport, breaking the previous record of 2.06 inches set back in 1964. It’s the second-highest one-day rainfall on record for Detroit, behind 4.74 inches that fell on July 31, 1925.

[Continuing Coverage: Metro Detroit Flood]

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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