By Steve Large

STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) — She survived a terrifying trip to the river that nearly cost her and her beloved dog their lives.

Chanda Benson and Gunther are back home now.

“It was a horrific night for us,” Benson said. “We’ve done a lot together, that’s the first time though that we’ve ever been swept down a river.”

The pair nearly died after Gunther jumped in the Stanislaus River to retrieve a stick, and the swift current started carrying him away.

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“In a state of panic, I jumped in the river as well,” Benson said.

Her plan to save her dog nearly cost both their lives.

“I had only been in there a few minutes and my hands were going numb,” Benson said.

In the deep, frigid water, Benson grabbed Gunther by the collar with one hand and grabbed an overhanging tree branch with the other.

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“I was trying to think, what should I do,” Benson said. “And that’s when I knew we were in a bind.”

“I could feel myself getting colder, it was getting colder because it was getting darker. And I thought hypothermia is going to be what gets us.”

“And I just started crying out at the top of my lungs for help.”

Incredibly, Gerardo Hernandez heard the calls for help. He followed the voice.

“I just saw a head above the water, I saw another figure,” Hernandez said. “I couldn’t really tell what it was. I guess my adrenaline started kicking in.”

Hernandez held out a 7-foot-long branch and the two made it safely to the shore. Pictures after their successful river rescue show their life-saving celebration.

“Honestly, I think it hasn’t really hit me yet,” Hernandez said. “Because everything just happened so fast.”

Faced with a making a split-second decision, in a scary scenario, Gerardo Hernandez emerged a hero.

“In this world we live in today, it’s hard to find true heroes like that,” Benson said. “I told him that, and I was like, ‘Thank you for saving our lives, you’re our hero!”

Benson says she has a few scrapes on her body but otherwise she is OK.

Hernandez is a Stanislaus State University student.

He is majoring in communications and says he hope to become an entrepreneur.

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