The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 5, 2010

TO THE RESCUE

Many help as truck with toddler aboard rolls into river

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA —  A freak accident ended without serious injury early Sunday afternoon as customers at Northcoast Marina leaped to action when a 2008 Lincoln Navigator rolled into the river with two people inside, police and witnesses said.

“I heard a boom and a ‘baby in the water’ and I just dove in to help out. There were four or five of us in the water,” said Shane Knowlton of Plymouth Township. The incident occurred at 1:05 p.m., witnesses said..

Knowlton said they were able to get a 2-year-old boy out of the water in seconds because the mother already had the young child in her arms.

Sgt. John Koski of the Ashtabula Police Department said a Cortland  man had been able to immediately help the mother get the baby out of the safety seat.

“A very near tragedy was averted,” Koski said.

Koski said the victims were from Cortland. “She (the mother) was unloading three children and had been able to get two out when the car started rolling,” he said.

The toddler was the one still in the car seat when the vehicle went into the water, Koski said. He said the child was shaken up but nobody was transported to the hospital.

Why the car began to roll toward the river was unclear Sunday, Koski said.

Witnesses said the car was parked  about 40 feet from the Ashtabula River by the marina’s pool when it began rolling toward the water.

Knowlton said the mother was outside the vehicle and the baby was sleeping inside. He said she tried desperately to slow the vehicle and extricate the child but held on and got back in the vehicle as it fell into shallow water at one of the docks.

“The skid marks there were from her barefeet. She tried really hard,” Knowlton said of the mother’s efforts.

Names of the victims were not released.

Knowlton said he jumped into the water like anyone else would do in the same situation. “I was just thinking about the baby. We just watch each other’s backs. Everybody down here is kind of like a family,” he said.

John Caston, manager of the marina, said he was behind the pool and by the time he came running to the river, six people were already in the water.

“We really had some Good Samaritans that did the right thing,” he said.

The truck going into the water created a really loud noise, witnesses said. “We were sitting over at our campsite and heard a loud crash,” said Debbie Emerine of Warren.

She said by the time they ran about 100 yards to the water’s edge on the opposite of the river the people were already being removed from the water.

Emerine said members of her family ran into the adjacent Community Ambulance headquarters and screamed for help.  The people were out of the water by the time the ambulance arrived on the scene moments later.

Dozens of people gathered to watch as family members and volunteers swam to the vehicle to try and get property out of the vehicle as two truck operators prepared to removed the vehicle from the water.

Many people took cell phone pictures as a large tow truck was used to pull the vehicle from the water at 2:28 p.m.

“We are very pleased and proud of our customers,” said Grant Brockway, owner of the marina,”The main thing is everyone did the right thing at the right time.”