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A week later, man from crash still in intensive care
The 88-year old man who was pulled from his car after it was submerged in the water off Bachman Park on May 8 remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton, hospital officials said.
The man suffered a medical emergency and lost control of his vehicle ending up in Sinclair Inlet at the end of Trenton Avenue. After being pulled from the water, he was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
A pair of Good Samaritans from SAFE Boats International, Jon Watkins and Jenson Charnell, who were testing a boat for the U.S. Coast Guard in Sinclair Inlet, responded to the watery crash along with a Bremerton Firefighter Alex Magallon and Bremerton Police Officer John Bogen and Lt. Pete Fisher to extract the driver.
Bogen reached into the car through the window and felt the man, he said. After several dives, he was able to unfasten the buckle on the seatbelt and pulled the driver out of the car window, with the help of Watkins.
Firefighter Alex Magallon, meanwhile, used an axe to break out a window of the vehicle and would later need stitches for a cut.
Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said the man was driving down Trenton Avenue at a high rate of speed when the Cadillac bottomed out in front of the parking area of the park, narrowly missed a tree and went flying into the water.
Jim and Francoise Deighan were eyewitnesses to the incident.
Francoise was weeding the garden and her husband, Jim, was on a ladder cutting vines when they saw a car coming fast down their street. They live in a house at the top of the hill overlooking Bachman Park.
“I saw it happen,” Francoise said. “The car was traveling so fast. I said to my husband, ‘He’s going too fast. He’s not going to be able to stop.’”
As they watched, they saw the car hit a bump in the street, heard it bottom out and then sail between a large tree and a neighboring house and splash into the water.
“I got my phone and called 911,” she said. “Jim, he ran down to the water to try to help the man.”
Francoise said she saw an elderly man at the wheel of the car. She said it appeared he didn’t apply the brakes or try to stop.
“It must have been something medical,” she said. “Because he didn’t try to stop. It was like he wasn’t alert.”
She saw her husband take off his shirt and take his keys and wallet out of his pockets and go in the water after the driver.
At that point two Bremerton police officers and a Bremerton firefighter arrived and went in the water to help.
“By then, the car was all the way under,” Francoise said. “But one of them had a hammer of some kind and broke out the window and got the man out.”
Jim Deighan said he was attempting to perform CPR on the subject as other paramedics arrived.
“When they brought him up, he wasn’t moving,” he said. “I pressed on his chest and tried to get him to breathe. Water came out of his mouth and he was breathing.”
The Deighans, who have lived on the hill above the park since 1999, said this was the first time they’d seen anything like this.
“It’s usually just a quiet street,” Francoise said.
Jean Parks, another neighbor who watched events unfold, said she’s lived nearby since 1977.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “I wasn’t right here when it happened, but I heard it and I came out to see my neighbor (Jim Deighan) in the water, trying to help get the man out of the car.”
A Suquamish Police dive team eventually arrived on the scene. A diver hooked the car to a tow-truck line and it was slowly pulled ashore and removed. A U.S. Coast Guard boat and helicopter also were at the scene.
This week, Charnell, 33, said he didn’t see the car go in the water.
“I was turned a different direction,” he said. “But the operator of our vessel saw it and he yelled out that a car went in the water. We raced over there and we were right on the scene in seconds.”
He said they couldn’t tell if there was anyone in the vehicle. But his co-worker, Jon Watkins, took off his shoes and jumped in the water.
“He said he saw someone and yelled back at me to bring a knife,” Charnell said. “So I got a knife and jumped in after him.”
Watkins used the knife to cut the shoulder harness of the driver’s seatbelt, but they couldn’t get the door open. By then, Deighan had swam out to the scene and soon after, a police office showed up, Charnell said. Watkins and the officer were able to pull the man out and take him ashore. Charnell said paramedics arrived and began CPR.
Charnell and his co-worker dried off and a police officer drove them back to Port Orchard where their cars were parked. They each went home and showered and changed into fresh clothes and returned to work.
Charnell said he’s never been first on the scene of an accident before, and in hindsight can’t recall being concerned for his own safety.
“I’ve never had anything like that happen to me, where I was right there when someone’s life was in danger,” he said. “Truthfully, at the time, I didn’t really think. I just reacted. I hope that if I was stuck like that, someone would jump in after me.”