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Seneca Valley teacher finds God in rescue from car in creek

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 11:28 p.m.
Henry Stefanacci, a Seneca Valley Middle School special education teacher, was injured March 3, 2013, when his car went off the road and upsidedown into Connoquenessing Creek. He was rescued and is recuperating.

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 bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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