A Fort Collins man went into a frozen pond and helped rescue a 22-year-old woman from her car after it overturned and slid into the water at the south entrance of the Kodak/Carestream campus on Thursday night.
Todd Vess, public information officer for Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, said a car driven by Kimberly Garcia of Evans slid into the lake off Colo. 257 and south of Eastman Park Drive just after 5 p.m. and landed on its roof, with the passenger compartment completely under water. Vess said Garcia was wearing a seat belt.
Vess said Fort Collins resident Rick Merlino, a fellow employee from the Kodak/Carestream campus, saw a tire sticking up above the ice and pulled over.
“He definitely made a difference. They were all site employees leaving work, and he saw the car upside down and pulled over,” Vess said. “He had her in his car when I got there wrapped in a blanket from another passer-by. He said that he saw the car in the pond, got out, went down to investigate and she was trying to get out the back window. ... That was the only window that was even partly above water.”
Merlino, an engineer at Carestream, told The Denver Post he grabbed Garcia just as she climbed through the back window of her car.
“She had been completely submerged. She was panicked. She was screaming for help,” Merlino told the Post. “I grabbed her and guided her out of the water.”
Vess said Garcia was fortunate that Merlino saw the car in the frozen pond.
“That’s not a high-traveled road,” Vess said. “It’s a private road on the campus, and it’s not like it’s a highway. It was good timing to help get her out of that car, because that’s the key on survival. Hypothermia could kick in real fast, and it was cold last night.”
Vess said Merlino told him that Garcia was really struggling when he went in to help her.
The frozen water was about knee deep when Merlino went in, Vess said.
Garcia was treated at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley and released. Vess said Garcia’s injuries were not life threatening, but she was in shock. Fire department personnel walked Garcia to the ambulance when it showed up to get her in the back of the ambulance so she could warm up, Vess said.
“She had not just the problem of a rollover accident, but landing upside down and breaking through four inches of ice in the water,” Vess said. “The car was up to the windows in water. She was completely drenched.”
Vess estimates that Garcia could have been in the frozen pond for up to 10 minutes. He said Merlino told him there were huge chunks of ice inside the car.
“I don’t know what the extent of her injuries were, but even for a healthy person to jump into a frozen lake, your body kind of locks up a little bit and it’s hard to do anything,” Vess said. “She couldn’t open the doors, crawling out through the ice in the water.”
Vess said it was the second car to go into the ponds at that site. He said the other car was during the summer about eight to 10 years ago.