By Rita Reith
A dramatic rescue on New Year’s Even by Indianapolis firefighters has given one woman the best chance for survival after she apparently drove her car into a retention pond.
The woman, still in the car, called 911 and pleaded for help. The dispatcher told the woman that help was already on the way and confirmed that she was in submerged car that bystanders had already reported. As the dispatcher tried to guide the woman toward a possible exit, the woman repeatedly stated “It’s coming in,” “It’s filling up,” and “It’s cold.”
One minute and 45 seconds later, the phone transmitted static and disconnected.
Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) Tactical Dive Team 7 marked responding and drove the 11.2-mile distance with divers gearing up en-route and fully prepared to enter the water upon arrival. Diver Ben Roberts–in his first operational dive as primary diver since graduating from Dive School in October–entered the water and made contact with the vehicle, which was sitting approximately 20 feet from shore and 12 feet down.
The vehicle was on its wheels under the water. Three minutes later, diver Brett Gildersleeve entered the water as the back-up diver. Ben located the sunroof on the car and using a window punch, breaking the window. He was able to grab the woman inside the car and the two divers pulled her up and out of the sunroof.
The rescuers then surfaced and made it onto shore with her within four minutes of entering the water. The two divers then went subsurface again and conducted a secondary search for additional occupants. There was much confusion for the dive teams as reports to dispatch indicated there was more than one occupant in the car. None were found.
Additionally, the dispatcher who talked to the woman in the car stated that the occupant did not indicate additional people in the car.
The woman who was rescued by firefighters from IFD Tac Team 7 remained in critical condition as of Wednesday. The submerged car in the retention pond at Sundance Apartments was recovered yesterday by Tac Team 7 with the assistance of the Greenwood Fire Department Dive Team, Indianapolis EMS, and Hix Wrecker Service.
RITA L. REITH is a battalion chief with the Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department and serves as the agency’s public information officer.