STARK COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – A young driver may be alive thanks to the quick action of bystanders after her car ended up in Lake Sippo quickly submerging in about 9 feet of water.
Stark Parks Chief Ranger Justin Laps says the reason the 2020 Mazda 3 ended up in the lake remains under investigation.
The 24-year-old driver who was from the Cleveland area was alone in the vehicle when it went in from a boat ramp and immediately drifted to about 40 yards from the ramp.
Security camera video from the park shows one man with a life preserver getting into the water from a dock to try and help.
Tara Chapman and her boyfriend Alan Vandiver were also there fishing.
Chapman says Vandiver also wasted no time jumping in the water and swimming to the car.
“He had steel toed boots on, his whole attire, wallet and everything and all you see is him take off his hoodie and he jumps in boots and all,” said Chapman, who started recording her own video of the rescue.
On her video the sense of urgency is easily apparent.
“Very panicky, I was panicking. You got that gut feeling that anything bad can happen if you didn’t get her out of the car and that was the most gut wrenching feeling I ever had,” said Chapman.
The videos show Vandiver climbing onto the car and using an ore to try and break out windows.
“It felt like it happened so fast but in a different aspect it was so slow,” he told Fox 8 News.
“Like it didn’t matter what I was trying to do I couldn’t break the window with my fist, we got the back window broke out and she was panicking a lot. I was trying to calm her down,” he said.
“I knew time was of the essence, so something had to give,” said Vandiver.
“From the time the car entered the water and when they entered the water it was only a few minutes before it submerged,” said Laps.
As the car sinks lower and lower into the water Chapman is heard screaming for a hose to try and give the trapped driver a way to breathe.
She says all of the hoses nearby were strapped down and they couldn’t get to them quickly.
Vandiver is seen swimming to the dock to get a wrench a park employee had on the property.
He swims back and as the car sinks below the surface he is able to get a rear passenger window to break.
“You see him submerge and you get that gut wrenching feeling that he didn’t get to her and then as he came up he pulls her out with him,” said Chapman.
“She was actually at the back window, the very back window taking her last breath. When she took her last breath, I took mine reached my arm underneath there I felt her graze against me. I just grabbed ahead and pulled.” said Vandiver.
“As soon as I emerged from the water she came up with me,” he said.
Perry Township Police and Fire as well as park rangers had all been dispatched and rushed to the scene, but the rescue was already well underway when they arrived.
“It’s lucky those individuals were there if somebody hadn’t been here it’s hard to think what would have happened,” said Laps.
“The more I think about it I’m just thankful that she was out able to get out and she has a second chance in life,” said Chapman, telling FOX 8 it was not the first time Vandiver had put himself in harm’s way to help others.
She said he previously ran into a burning house across the street from their Massillon home to rescue two neighbors from the fire.
“I mean I do feel like a hero but, I mean somebody else in my situation would have done the same thing, I mean life is precious no matter what is going on in your life,” said Vandiver.