Man survives watery crash into Sinclair Inlet

A Suquamish Police diver helps extricate a car out of Sinclair Inlet Thursday morning. The driver of the vehicle was rescued and is being treated at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton. - Kevan Moore/staff photo
A Suquamish Police diver helps extricate a car out of Sinclair Inlet Thursday morning. The driver of the vehicle was rescued and is being treated at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/staff photo

The driver of a white Cadilac was pulled from his car after it was submerged in the water off Bachman Park shortly after 10 a.m. this morning and given cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The 88-year-old man survived and is being treated at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton.

A pair of Good Samaritans from SAFE Boats International, who were testing a boat for the U.S. Coast Guard in Sinclair Inlet, responded to the watery crash along with a Bremerton firefighter and police officer to extract the driver. The police officer ditched his gun belt and dove into the water along with the SAFE Boat employees. A firefighter, 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 Thursday morning.

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.

Police sources and witnesses, including the Deighans, said there was a boat nearby in the water at the time and two men jumped from it to try to get the driver out of the vehicle.

"They told my husband to get out of the water, but he kept trying to help," she said.

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 man was taken by ambulance to Harrison Hospital in Bremerton.

At the scene, police and fire officials said they did not know how long the man had been in the water. According to the time the call went out on the scanner, he could have been under from five to eight minutes.

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 Thursday morning, 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.

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