WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Bystanders contributed to a dramatic water rescue in Willimantic on Monday, pulling a woman out of a sinking car.
According to Willimantic Fire Chief Marc Scrivener, a car drove into a river at 75 Bridge St. around 6:30 p.m.
Scrivener said that two bystanders, Willimantic residents Jim Preston and Manny Gonzalez, sprang into action and helped pull the woman out of her car. However, the woman was unable to climb out of the river channel without help.
“Manny took off his shoes and reached over to the lady and grabbed her by the hand, and I grabbed Manny by the back of his pants and help on to him, and we got her up to where she could get up enough where I could get her hand also, and we pulled her up out of the sunroof, slid her over the car and then picked her up and sat her down over here on the rock,” Preston said.
Firefighters lowered a ladder into the channel, descended with safety ropes and water rescue gear, and assisted the woman to a Willimantic ambulance for evaluation. Scrivener said she was taken to a Columbia ambulance for treatment.
In an attempt to search for more victims, firefighters secured a rope to the car for stabilization and climbed into the car. While looking into the sunroof, an airbag discharged, though the firefighter was not injured.
Scrivener said no other victims were found.
The Northeast Tow and Transport “Rotator” heavy rescue team worked alongside firefighters to secure a heavy-duty tow strap through the driver’s window and out the front passenger window. This allowed the car to be lifted from the river around 8:18 p.m., Scrivener said.
Scrivener praised bystanders Preston and Gonzalez.
“These two embody the best spirit of Willimantic: we all look out for each other,” Scrivener wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m proud of both of them, and I’m proud to be from Willimantic.”
“I just think I do the right thing, and I will do it again if I have to for anybody,” Gonzalez said.
Preston and his wife, who own A Cupcake for Later, has had firefighter training, but said that Gonzalez and the other Good Samaritan went above and beyond.
“Those are the guys that are heroes,” Preston said. “The heroes are made in an instant.”