An elderly Florida man was killed in a freak accident after his car veered off the road and crashed into a fire hydrant in a residential area in Viera, 40 miles south-east of Orlando.

After ploughing into the fire hydrant on Wednesday (10 May) morning, Robert Dreyer, 89, stepped out of his car to check on any damage. As Dreyer exited his vehicle, the ground underneath him gave way and the octogenarian fell into a hole that was estimated to be about five or six-foot deep.

The hole quickly became flooded as water from the fire hydrant gushed out and horrified bystanders rushed to help the drowning Dreyer, who was celebrating his 89th birthday the same day.

"The water started erupting from the fire hydrant," said Channing Taylor with the Florida Highway Patrol. "As a result there was a divot in the space where the fire hydrant used to be and right adjacent to his driver's door, he fell into that divot."

Describing the efforts to rescue Dreyer, witness Pedro Rodriguez said: "We just see that water gushing out and it gets to the point that it's hitting all those palm trees on the side of the road."

He estimated that Dreyer was underwater for three to four minutes before he could be pulled out.

Another witness, Edward Cunningham, said: "It was pushing me out of the hole, and I weigh 220 pounds."

Dreyer was transported to Viera Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Taylor said it is the first time he has heard of somebody hitting a fire hydrant and drowning. "Usually the fire hydrants will break off and they won't spew water; they have safety valves in place," he said. "But if you hit something the right way, the safety doesn't work."