Man rescued from submerged car

Mike Christian of Christian’s Towing hands diver Pete Pehl, of P2 Diving Services, a hook to attach to the partially submerged car to bring it the rest of the way out of a Central Whidbey pond.  - Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times
Mike Christian of Christian’s Towing hands diver Pete Pehl, of P2 Diving Services, a hook to attach to the partially submerged car to bring it the rest of the way out of a Central Whidbey pond.
— image credit: Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times

A bystander jumped in the water to rescue the driver of a car that ran off the road and into a pond at the intersection of State Highway 20 and Keystone Avenue Friday.

The driver, who asked to remain anonymous, was trapped inside the vehicle as it sank.

Kris Barski said he witnessed the accident and flagged down passing motorists to help rescue the driver.

After arriving at the accident scene, onlooker Matt Chidsey dove into the water to help free the driver from the submerged vehicle.

“People were throwing rocks and sticks, trying to break the windows because the doors wouldn’t open,” Chidsey said. “So I went in … and I swam up, pulled the back door. I was underwater, pulled it open … and all this water and air rushed out, along with him, and he made it.”

The driver said he was heading to the Keystone ferry on his way to Port Angeles when he took a sharp turn in the road too fast.

“I just went into the water,” he said. “I braked, but didn’t brake that well, and I went straight into the water.”

Barski said he was stopped on Keystone Avenue when he saw the driver heading towards the turn at an estimated 40 to 50 mph.

Barski said he looked away for a moment, then heard a crash as the car hit the water.

When he looked back, Barski said the car was already partially submerged.

“When people were coming, I stopped them,” Barski said. “One lady tried to open the door and she couldn’t. Then, that gentleman (Chidsey) came over. The car was already submerged when he came, so he dove and opened the door and got the guy out.”

Barski said he tried to help too, but was unable to.

“So the guy saved his life,” Barski said.

“(The driver) would be ‘done.’ He was completely closed in the water, so … (Chidsey) saved his life.”

The driver will be issued a ticket for $175, said Washington State Patrol Officer Dave Martin, the collision officer in charge of the scene.

Martin said the driver will be charged with an infraction for driving at “speed too fast for conditions.”

That is the lowest ticket Martin said he could issue. Under similar circumstances, a second-degree negligence infraction could be issued.

This is not the first accident of this kind to happen at the intersection of the highway and Keystone Avenue.

“This is getting to be a common occurrence,” said Island County Deputy Sheriff Rob Davison, who also responded to the call.

Davison said the most recent accident at the scene he is aware of occurred this past winter.

Martin added he knows of three or four similar accidents in this area.

The driver, Martin said, is lucky there was a witness.

The water in the quarry is deep enough that the submerged car was invisible from the road, Martin said, adding it would have taken another accident in that same pond for them to discover what had happened, had there been no witness.

The car was pulled from the water Friday afternoon by Christian’s Towing with help from a certified diver, Pete Pehl.


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