Katarzyna Adamska, 27, cheated death after crashing off the A82 Fort Augustus to Inverness road on Sunday evening.
The paralegal with an Inverness firm said: “I didn’t think I would make it out of that car alive. I couldn’t get the seatbelt open and I was running out of air as the car filled up.”
She thanked her modest rescuer, 56-year-old Jeff Dymond, who pulled her to safety using a lifebelt and rope.
Miss Adamska said: “I was approaching the bend and noticed a big puddle. I couldn’t avoid it and then the car hit the verge. It flipped over and started rolling down the embankment towards the water.
“I thought that one of the trees would stop me but they didn’t and I ended up upside down in the river. The car started filling up with water immediately and I started to panic.
“I couldn’t find the buckle to release the seat belt. It was so dark. I was hoping I could find a hole to get out. One of the windows must have been damaged in the fall, and I managed to kick the glass out and get out of the car.”
She feared she may have been swept away by the fast flowing river which runs into Loch Ness.
She added: “I am a strong swimmer but I didn’t want to try it. I didn’t know who he was, but Jeff came back and threw me the lifeline from the bridge.
“At first it was too far away from me to reach and I didn’t have the courage to swim for it. So I waited for it to be swept closer to me and thankfully it did. He grabbed it and Jeff told me to hold on. He wrapped the rope around his waist and then climbed down to the rocks and he pulled me in to dry land.
“I have never been so grateful in all my life, but I never got the chance to thank him for saving my life.
“That is what I am going to do right now. I have his phone number and then I will thank him personally for getting me out of that river alive.”
Mr Dymond described finding the young driver “clinging desperately” to the overturned vehicle, which was fully submerged apart from the wheels.
He explained how the young woman managed to keep holding on while he ran back to his house, north of Invermoriston, to collect an old lifebelt.
Mr Dymond said: “She was surrounded by water. The water was flowing really fast because of the recent flooding.
“I managed to throw the life buoy with a rope tied to it out to her and pull her in. She was incredibly brave, as she was out there for around 15 minutes .
“The car was upside down and submerged, but for the wheels. She could have tried to swim in herself, but the water was so fast. It would have been really dangerous for her to attempt.” Mr Dymond added paramedics were quickly on the scene and took her away for treatment to just cuts and bruises.
“She was really, really lucky to survive.”
The drama unfolded at about 8pm on Sunday.”
Her Renault Cleo left the A82 road just north of Invermoriston, narrowly missed a bridge parapet and wooden telegraph pole, before careering down a steep embankment into the River Altsigh, which was swollen with heavy rainfall and melting snow in the area.
Mr Dymond said: “We knew exactly what had happened as it is a regular event, particularly when there is a lot of water on the road surface.
“There is a fast straight before the corner and it is likely she just aquaplaned, skidded off the road and down the embankment. The car had ended upside down and the girl was clinging to the top of it.”
The wildlife consultant said he had an old boat which still had its life ring on board, so he ran back to the house, tied some blue rope to it and ran back to save the woman.
He added: “She did incredibly well to get out of the car. The water was running really fast at the mouth of the loch. It is amazing how she survived. She had been very brave.”
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