Jamaican Jephtah Thomas receives civil citation for bravery

Jamaican-born Plantation resident, Jephtah Thomas, has received a civilian citation from the Plantation Fire Department for his act of bravery rescuing a father and daughter last month from a car crash.

Driving from his home in Plantation to his job as a facility engineer at the Lifetime Athletic Club in Boca Raton, Thomas rescued Teophil Omegat and his daughter Vasthie when their car crashed and sank into the Sunrise Blvd canal on the morning of March 11.

As the husband and father of two reached near the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Northwest 46th Avenue, he heard a loud splash, and saw an object sail across his windshield. Stopping to take stock of his surroundings, he noticed a Toyota Odyssey van had run off the road and submerged in the canal adjacent with Sunrise Boulevard.

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“I immediately called 911,” Thomas told National Weekly. “Then without a second thought I jumped into the canal to try and save whoever was in that vehicle.”

Reaching the vehicle, he saw Haitian-American Teophil Omigat, 40, in the back seat trying to open the windows to get his ten-year-old daughter Vasthie out. “Seeing this, I knew I had to save them,” said Thomas. “As if a miracle, I managed to place my fingers in a slight space between the door frame and window, broke it and helped Omigat and Vasthie out.”

Thomas recalls after the Omigats emerged from the car, he was “so overwhelmed with emotion, I cried as it could have been my wife and sons in a similar circumstance. I would want someone to stop and save them.” With his help, the pair were able to escape with minor injuries, soon treated and released from Plantation General Hospital.

Though hailed as a hero by both media and the public, Thomas said being a hero was “the last thing I thought about. It was a natural instinct to try to save those people. I had no fear, as I am a good swimmer, plus I was able to stand in a shallow part of the canal trying to open the van’s window.”

Despite his unwillingness for the spotlight, his heroic antics has made him an admired member of the Caribbean community here in South Florida, where he first moved to from New York in 2011 to join his mother. In 2014, he married his wife, Paula. Describing himself as a “God fearing man, but not an ardent church-goer,” Thomas, a Seven-Day Adventist, believes saving Omigat and his daughter “was sheer divine intervention. I was sent there at the right time to save those people.”

After the crash, Thomas recently spoke again with Omigat and Vasthie, who celebrated her 10th birthday on March 18. “I wished her happy birthday and many more years, and she was so very grateful to me for helping her and her father.”

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