Witness dives into Lake Granby, frees woman from seat belt
August 6, 2009
Acting on adrenaline and instinct, witnesses seeing a car sinking into Lake Granby took action that may have saved the life of a 78 year-old accident victim. Matt Brown, who performed a Samaritan feat on Monday, witnesses say, “deserves the accolades.”The Hunker Down musician and Grand Elk Marina caretaker piloted a boat to the scene of a rented, submerged Hummer H3, where four individuals had managed to escape while the elderly woman on the passenger’s side of the vehicle remained trapped by her seat belt and a deployed airbag, according to witnesses. Brown dove into the cold water and somehow entered the flooded vehicle as Steve Dionne of Denver attempted to keep the door open against underwater pressure.”That guy deserves every positive adjective that’s out there,” Dionne said of Brown. “Hero is certainly one that comes to mind,” he said.Caught in the seat beltA car crash that occurred around 6:17 p.m. resulted in the Hummer sliding backwards down a 40-foot embankment into the lake. The car submerged about 50 feet from shore . Individuals from the truck that struck the rental Hummer went to the victims’ aid, straddling the top of the sinking vehicle, according to eyewitnesses. Brown arrived shortly afterwards.”That guy actually swam into the car and undid that lady’s seatbelt,” Dionne said, “and had us just propping the door as open as possible.”According to Dionne, the unconscious woman’s neck was momentarily caught in the seat belt as rescuers attempted to extract her from the car feet-first. EMT Bryan Roland, who arrived at the same time as Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Bell in full uniform, broke the window with the blunt end of a Leatherman tool.All of this took place underwater. “The door was open enough that the airbag floated up between the door frame and the door,” Dionne said. “Two things there to save your life kept getting in the way.”Yet within minutes, the rescuers moved the elderly woman out of the vehicle and onto shore. The accident occurred near the Circle H and Mackinaw’s bar and restaurant. Drivers of a southbound truck making a left turn ran into the Hummer as its driver attempted to pass the truck on the left side, according to Bell. The impact spun the Hummer and knocked it off the roadway.The Colorado State Patrol is witholding the names of those involved as it continues its investigation.Mackinaw’s bartender Jed Henry, a paramedic, assisted Grand County emergency responders in getting the backboard down to the shore to transport the woman to the ambulance, according to Chris Popovich, owner-manager at Mackinaw’s. Dionne had arrived at Mackinaw’s to meet friends for dinner just prior to the incident. Like Brown, he didn’t hesitate to jump in the water and swim to the scene, according to those who saw what ensued after the crash. ‘He risked his own life'”There were several other people who were helping to keep the family calmed down and doing whatever anybody could,” Popovich said.Roland and fellow EMTs managed to resuscitate the victim in the ambulance en route to Granby Medical Center, where she was airlifted to Denver’s St. Anthony Central Hospital. She is still being monitored but is expected to make a full recovery, according to a Grand County EMS update on Thursday. Dionne especially credits Brown for giving her the chance to survive.”If somebody hadn’t gotten her out of the car in the next 30 seconds, I can’t imagine she’d still be alive,” he said. “That guy (Brown) deserves a pat on the back. He really risked his own life to save hers, crawling into the car like that.”After the immediate crisis, Brown and Mackinaw’s owner-manager Tim Neal proceeded to deploy an oil boom, a barrier of absorbent material designed to keep the car’s fluids from spreading in the lake.”The (Grand Elk) Marina had those in stock for that type of emergency,” Neal said. “We felt good about the containment.”Brown then helped to hook the vehicle to a tow truck by wrapping a chain around the spare-tire rim. Dionne helped to wench the vehicle.”Matt was a little shaken up today,” Neal said on Wednesday. Although Brown showed up to work, his employers sent him home for more rest.”With something like that, you’re reacting on adrenaline, and don’t realize how much until a day or two later,” Neal said.Reached on Thursday, Brown simply wished the family “a speedy recovery.” – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.