Local rescuers save woman from sinking car
Posted July 1-“My first impulse was to get the window down and get screaming,” said Millie Jackson.
Last Thursday morning, Jackson, 84, was driving north on Route 26, returning home to Bethel after a blood test in Norway.
But she apparently dozed off near the Greenwood/Woodstock transfer station.
Her 2005 Buick Century crossed over the southbound lane, hit some rocks, and ended up 40 feet out into Round Pond.
“I woke up when the car hit some rocks, and I saw the water splashing up over the windshield,” she said.
Jackson, who doesn’t know how to swim and is “scared of water,” still had the presence of mind to quickly open her automatic window before the car began to sink.
She started yelling for help and waving.
It worked. “I realized people were stopping,” she said.
One was Diane Gaudreau of Woodstock, who called 911.
Another was Andy Whitney, 21, of the Bethel Fire Department.
“I remember seeing him take his shirt off and swim out,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jackson became aware of water gushing in around the bottom of the car doors.
When Whitney arrived, “He asked me if I could come out the window.”
Jackson was skeptical, she said, “but he started pulling me.”
He also started cutting her seat belt with a knife, and asked her to try to unbuckle it.
“I tried, and I might have, but I’m not sure,” she remembers. “I tried to put my head out the window, and I pushed with my feet, and he did the rest.”
Once she was clear of the car, Whitney swam her back to shore.
She was taken by ambulance to Stephens Memorial Hospital to be checked, and was released to her son within a couple of hours, she said.
Now she’s back at home trying to dry out the contents of her purse, as well as a number of dolls she had in the car.
And she’s been fielding plenty of phone calls from family and friends.
“All I can say is, ‘Thank God for Andy and the others,’” she said. “They did an excellent job.”
Whitney returned the compliment, saying he was impressed with the way Jackson handled herself in the situation. She remained calm as he tried to free her, he said.
“She was strapped in a sinking car, and she asked me if I was all right,” he said. “I thought that was funny.”
Whitney said Jackson had fully opened the window.
By then, the water was near the bottom of the window. As he struggled to get her out, the motion caused the water to fill the car more quickly.
It was coming in the window and coming up fast,” he said.
Whitney cut the upper seat belt strap, he said, but Jackson must have succeeded in unbuckling it because she came free of the lap belt.
He pulled her out relatively easily, he said, because she was floating.
Then, with Jackson on her back in the water, he grasped her across one shoulder and under the other arm and swam for shore.
Another passer-by, Jeremy Morin of Gilead, came out to meet them and help, Whitney said.
Gaudreau, who had also swum to the car, stayed near it until it was determined no one else was inside.
Whitney said several emergency-training experiences helped him in the situation.
The Fire Department teaches extrication from vehicles (although not sinking ones).
That training, he said, prompted him to remember to bring a knife to cut the seat belt, and to tilt the steering wheel up to create more room to maneuver.
Red Cross lifesaving swimming classes he took when he was younger helped too, Whitney said, as well as Telstar Challenge classes that he had in high school.