Seneca Valley teacher finds God in rescue from car in creek
Henry “Leo” Stefanacci counted himself a nonbeliever until he had to be rescued this month from his overturned car in the icy waters of Connoquenessing Creek.
“There is a God; that's why I'm alive,” Stefanacci, 48, of Zelienople said on Thursday. “God and the power of prayer.”
The special education teacher at Seneca Valley Middle School is recovering from injuries he suffered on March 3 as his car slid off Halstead Boulevard in Zelienople.
Four teenagers from the Zelienople area spotted the wreckage in the dark and called 911. Firefighters pulled Stefanacci from the water. He said he may have been in the water for as long as 40 minutes and believes he had just minutes left when rescuers arrived.
“They're heroes,” Stefanacci said of the teens and firefighters. “I owe my life to them.”
Stefanacci said he said goodbye to his family, including his wife, Kelly, 45, and daughters Gianna, 12, and Carmen, 9, when he found he could not escape.
“It was the saddest moment of my life,” he said.
Stefanacci awoke after four days in critical care in UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, where medical staff treated him for a concussion, pneumonia, hypothermia and other injuries.
He lost 20 pounds and now uses a cane at times. He works with a therapist to regain his speech, which is soft and raspy because of injuries and treatments. He said doctors expect a full recovery in six months to a year.
Stefanacci was overwhelmed with cards, gifts and other tokens from people wishing him a quick recovery.
“You don't realize how many people love you until you take a step away,” he said.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.