Elderly Lakeland man recalls harrowing night in creek

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Year in and year out, Bob Broyles has gone to the creek behind his house to feed the turtles.  It is not unusual for dozens to show up and eat the white bread he throws into the water.

"I don't think I could feel better than when I am doing that," he told FOX 13.

It was around midnight, a few weeks ago, when Bob's grit was put to the test.

"I don't quit," he said. And he didn't, for hours.

The light that Bob was wearing on his head fell off.  It ended up on the bank, which dropped precipitously into the water. When he tried to retrieve it, Bob slipped and landed in the water -- face-first.

It's a dangerous situation for anyone, but especially for a 78-year-old man with heart problems and weak legs.  He tried to get out, but couldn't.

In the meantime, his wife was sleeping.  Even if she was awake, she might not have thought much about him not being in the house with her.

"It was nothing unusual," Janice Broyles told us. "He is always up."

Hour upon hour, he worried about what might be in the creek with him, like water moccasins.  Every noise was a potential threat.

"You don't want to draw any attention. You don't want to make any ripples in the water," he said. "You don't make any sound. You don't do anything until it's gone."

Ten hours later, a little after sunrise the following day, two Lakeland city employees showed up at the creek to spray and found him.

"We thought it was a mannequin at first," said Ed White.

It wasn't. It was a very tired man who finally had a way out of what otherwise could have become a deadly situation.

Despite his ordeal, Bob is still feeding the turtles. Except now, he tethers himself to a fence with a rope just in case he loses his balance again.