ASHTABULA — A police pursuit of a drug suspect ended up with a car in Fields Brook and a suspect in jail on Thursday afternoon, according to Greg Leonhard, director of the Crime Enforcement Agency of Ashtabula County.
Leonhard said the incident started at the Ashtabula County YMCA parking lot, then continued into Ashtabula Township, north on State Road, west on Lake Road and then a major challenge occurred when the Ashtabula lift bridge was up and the suspect took a detour into a railroad yard.
The final stages of the chase occurred near the railroad lift bridge on the eastern side of the Ashtabula River at the entrance into Fields Brook.
“He got to the top of the hill [where the suspect exited the car] and the car went over by itself,” Leonhard said.
The incident occurred near the Riverside Boat Club where the tow truck came to remove the vehicle. A group of boat club members lingered around the site taking cell-phone video of the process.
After getting out of the car the suspect continued his escape, Leonard said.
“He tried to swim across [the river],” Leonhard said. On the other side of the river, however, law enforcement officers were waiting and took him into custody, he said.
A boater, who asked not to be named, said he witnessed the incident from the river.
“There were six or seven police cars chasing him. He ran out of real estate,” the boater said.
After the suspect was arrested and taken to the Ashtabula jail, the drama turned to how to get the vehicle out of the water.
John O’Neill Sr., a scuba-diving instructor returning from a training exercise, was called to the scene. He went into the water to hook the car so it could be hauled down Fields Brook and eventually on to dry land.
He said it was a challenge to get the car hooked for removal.
“Zero vision. Everything is by touch. That is why it took so long,” O’Neill said after successfully getting the car ready for removal.
Fields Brook was a Superfund site that took decades to clean and caused O’Neill to think before going in, but things are much better now, he said.
“Twenty years ago I would have said you can plant a flower on it and call it part of the river, he said.
The U.S. Coast Guard was also called to the scene of the incident.
The suspect is expected to be arraigned on drug and traffic charges stemming from the chase, said CEAAC Assistant Commander Mike Palinkas said.