Just a few days after Christmas, on Dec. 28, an 85-year-old woman in Coventry, Rhode Island, found herself in a life-or-death situation.
The woman may also have hit the gas, causing her to careen over an embankment and directly into the frigid water of the South Branch Pawtuxet River.
After receiving the emergency call regarding the accident, Coventry Police Department officers Corey Benton and Stephen Fernandez — as well as an unnamed supervisor — headed to the scene at about 9:00 a.m.
When they got there, they spotted the driver — who was, thankfully, conscious and alert — but they knew she wouldn’t be able to get out by herself.
The two officers plunged into the cold, chest-deep water and swam out to the car, which was steadily sinking.
“We kind of knew that we had to go in and get her before the vehicle sank,” Benton told WJAR.
“Very, very cold,” he added of the water. “Definitely took your breath away for a second.”
“At the time that we got there, the car was kind of like nose-down into the water,” Fernandez said. “But we could clearly see that this nice young woman was still above it.
“She was responsive to us, she was answering our questions, but we — you know, given the temperature of the water — we knew we had to get her out.”
The officers managed to reach the car, open the door and pull the driver out just as the car slipped beneath the surface of the water.
“As we got her out onto the embankment, the vehicle pretty much sank right then,” Benton recounted. “So, we’re glad that we were able to get her out when we did.”
The Coventry Fire Department was soon on the scene and took over from there, assessing the woman. Fire Chief Frank Brown said she was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but overall she appeared to be in good shape. The officers were also checked out for hypothermia.
Brown also said it was a bit of a miracle that the incident happened during daylight hours.
“She was lucky,” he told WPRI-TV. “Good thing it was that time of day and people saw her go in and she wasn’t out there at midnight or 1 o’clock.”
“This was a team effort all the way around,” Fernandez added, according to WJAR. “Their quick action really determined how they could get her out without any injury or hypothermia.”
The driver has since been released from the hospital, and the crash is still under investigation.
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