A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy received top honors Friday after rescuing a woman whose car was submerged in a Metairie canal following a hit-and-run accident earlier this week.

Sergeant Billy Matranga was awarded the JPSO Distinguished Service Award for saving the 79-year-old woman, whose car had veered into the drainage canal at West Esplanade Avenue and Marseillas Place on Nov. 29.

At an awards ceremony Friday afternoon, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto retraced the deputy’s steps during the dramatic rescue. 

Shortly before 3 p.m., Matranga, a campus deputy, was working at nearby Grace King High School when he heard a loud noise and splash caused by the crash. Lopinto said the victim was driving her car when she was struck from behind and lost control of the vehicle, sending her careening into the drainage canal.

Matranga ran to the woman’s aid, Lopinto said, and climbed on top of her car, which was submerged in the canal with her inside. The deputy attempted to smash through the windshield, but when the car began tipping to one side he switched sides and was able to gain access to the woman by entering through a broken window on the passenger side.

Matrenga checked the woman for any injuries and said she was “conscious but stunned,” before pulling her to safety out of the window, after which a group of Good Samaritan bystanders came to help. 

The victim, who asked to remain anonymous, did not sustain any serious injuiries in the crash and came into the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to personally thank Matranga on Friday morning.

“She was very appreciative and thankful,” Matranga said. 

“We have to recognize them when we have the opportunity to do so,” Lopinto said of the deputies in his office.  “He did exactly what he’s supposed to do out there and we’re proud of him.”

Deputies were able to track the vehicle that struck the woman’s car and fled the scene through the license plate and they detained Alvin Haley, 21, shortly after the crash. Lopinto said the car was not registered to Haley, but likely borrowed from an acquaintance or family member. Haley was cited with failure to yield, driving with out a driver’s license and committing a hit-and-run.

Follow Helen Freund on Twitter, @helenfreund.