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Update: Elderly man rescued from crash into frigid lake

Rain Smith • Updated Feb 10, 2016 at 5:46 PM

Update: 5:35 p.m. 

KINGSPORT — A Wednesday afternoon drive through Warriors Path State Park turned into a water rescue, as a 90-year-old motorist crashed into the lake and became trapped in his vehicle.

Shortly before 1:45 p.m., the roof of the Honda minivan was spotted by Park Ranger Brian Glover. It was approximately 25 feet off the shore of Fort Patrick Henry Lake and directly beside the park marina. The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office was called with Deputy Brian Wexler responding.

The officer and park ranger rowed a boat to the vehicle and found the elderly, lone occupant still inside. SCSO Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart says that at that point the man is estimated to have been in the frigid waters for at least 10 minutes. The water had seeped into the van and covered him up to his neck.

Wexler tells the Times-News that he initially broke the sunroof to pull the driver out the top of the vehicle. However, fears of cutting the man during extrication changed that plan, with the rescuers then reaching beneath the water to open the door. The victim was outfitted with a life jacket and then pulled into the boat.

Despite the man’s crash into the icy lake and a wind-chill factor in the teens, police report the driver was responsive. Sullivan County EMS transported him to a local hospital for observation and any needed treatment, with hypothermia being the chief concern. As of Wednesday evening, his condition was not known.

Earhart says the victim was taking a drive through the park when the crash occurred. A wooden fence adjacent to marina parking was broken by the impact of his vehicle, with tire tracks in the grass indicating he subsequently swerved to the left and toward the lake. His vehicle then careened down the rocky embankment and into the water.

The van was extricated and removed from the scene by ACP Towing. A boat ferried out a tow operator to hook straps through each of the front doors and around the van’s roof. The straps were then attached to cables on the truck, and another ACP worker winched the vehicle ashore.

Previous story:

KINGSPORT - A Wednesday afternoon drive through Warriors Path State Park turned into a water rescue, after a 90-year-old motorist crashed into the lake and became trapped in his vehicle.

The SUV, which came to rest approximately 25 feet off the banks of the lake, was spotted by a park ranger shortly before 1:45 p.m. The ranger and a Sullivan County Sheriff's Office deputy then rowed a boat out the the vehicle, finding the driver still inside and submerged in water up to his neck.

The police officer was able to open a door, place a lifejacket on the man and pull him from the crashed vehicle. He was alert and transported to local hospital for evaluation.

As of 3:30 p.m. Rescue personnel were still on the scene. Check back later with Timesnews.net for additional details and photos.

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