EVANS MILLS — A woman who drove into a retention pond at the intersection of routes 11 and 26 in LeRay Saturday night is alive, thanks to the quick response of firefighters and state troopers who pulled her to safety through the sunroof as her vehicle sank beneath the surface.
John Russell, assistant chief of the Evans Mills Fire Department, said when the call came in firefighters were at the races at the Evans Mills Raceway Park, which is less than 1 mile from the intersection.
The crew arrived from the raceway within minutes, and Mr. Russell, coming from his home, was there a few minutes later. He said they decided he would go into the water to attempt to rescue the woman, Joanne M. Tanner, 61, of Evans Mills, who police later charged with drunken driving.
Secured to a rope, Mr. Russell went into the water and broke the back window to get inside. As he reached the driver, Trooper Christopher Hardy got in the water and climbed to the top of the vehicle, which caused it to shift.
As it shifted, Mr. Russell said water began flowing into the back of the car.
“I had to get out of there quickly,” Mr. Russell said.
At this point, Ms. Tanner’s vehicle was in water, but not fully submerged.
The assistant chief said he climbed up to the roof with Mr. Hardy, who broke the sunroof to get to the driver. They then pulled Ms. Tanner, who at the time was up to her chin in water, out of the vehicle together. The vehicle was fully submerged shortly after they rescued her.
“She didn’t have much space left,” Mr. Russell said. “I would say another minute or two, she would have been completely under the water.”
A third trooper, Ryan Gentile, removed his gun belt and jumped into the water to help.
Mr. Russell said it was decided that Mr. Hardy would get Ms. Tanner to shore and then carry her to a waiting ambulance. Mr. Russell said a medic told him Ms. Tanner appeared remorseful and did think she was going to die.
Mr. Russell stressed that the rescue was a team effort. He mentioned Kenneth Camidge, who has been a captain for the Evans Mills Department since January and commanded the scene.
“He is one of my new captains and has only been a captain for about five months,” Mr. Russell said. “He’s been a firefighter for a few years, but this was his first big incident that he had been in charge of. He did an excellent job. I’m very proud of him.”
“I was a firefighter in North Carolina years ago, and we did some water rescues,” Mr. Russell added. “But I can tell you this is something completely different for us up here. In the years I’ve been a firefighter up here, we’ve never had anything like that in our area.”
Ms. Tanner was charged by state police with driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, and first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, a felony.
She was taken to Samaritan Medical Center with minor injuries and issued a ticket to appear in LeRay Town Court after she was arrested.