Within seconds of splashing into the water as he fled police, Abraham Duarte knew he had made a mistake. Soon he was retching and pleading desperately for the help of the Cape Coral, Fla., officers he had been attempting to escape, figuring that even jail would be better than the slimy, toxic algae in which he was immersed. “Help me. Help me,” he cried. “I’m dying. I’m dying.”

Duarte had stopped his car on Beach Parkway East last week after he was pulled over for allegedly speeding by police in Cape Coral. According to police, Duarte, 22, made a run for it. Body camera footage showed the officers chasing Duarte on foot. Soon, Duarte found himself trapped in an area known for its crisscrossing canals.

Rather than be arrested, Duarte, who lives in northern Florida, plunged into a canal and attempted to swim away.

Duarte told The Washington Post that when he jumped in the polluted canal, he wasn’t thinking about how the state has been beset by a historic and disgusting algae bloom that was dirtying up the waterways. The blue-green algae isn’t only smelly — lifeguards and those who live close to water have taken to wearing masks to shield themselves from the stink — it’s also toxic. Scores of fish and other wildlife have been killed by the algae and people can be sickened if they breathe it in.

Unfortunately for Duarte, he went a step further and took in several gulps. Duarte said that he had heard about the algae, but he wasn’t thinking clearly when he dove into the water.

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