Police Cadets Rescue Man Pinned by Vehicle in Pond
November 04, 2010
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD – At the sound of the crash, the three police-officers-in-training turned their heads see a sport-utility vehicle rolling down an embankment and into a large collection pond in Lanham.
While one of the cadets parked the car, the other two rushed to find a man pinned by the vehicle. Only his nose and mouth were visible above the water.
“At that point, it was try to keep him calm, because none of us are superman,” said Zeb Rohrback, one of the cadets.
Maybe not. But police and fire officials said they helped save the man’s life Tuesday evening.
Fellow police cadet Jena Hatfield said she took the victim’s left arm and Rohrback took the right, and together they kept the man’s head above water. When firefighters arrived several minutes later, a third cadet, Linwood Alston, helped use the Jaws of Life and a winch to get the SUV off the man and then get him to safety, the cadets said.
Police and fire officials said that the victim had some water in his lungs, and that his injuries initially were thought to be critical and life threatening. On Wednesday, they said he was expected to survive.
“I would say that that victim more than likely would have succumbed to drowning had it not been for the immediate action of these individuals,” said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.
Rohrback, Hatfield and Alston – all student officers at the Anne Arundel Community College police academy with no affiliation with a specific police department – were driving to get food at the Vista Gardens Marketplace when the accident happened just before 7 p.m.
They said they heard the sound of a crash, then saw the SUV rolling down the hill at routes 704 and 450.
Alston, 42, of Glenn Dale, parked the car. Rohrback, 26, of Westminster, and Hatfield, 22, of Bryans Road, rushed down the embankment to the pond, which was three or four feet deep, authorities said. Hatfield and Rohrback plunged into the water still wearing their cadet uniforms. Alston soon followed, making sure the vehicle was stable while the other two tended to the man, the three said.
“It was a lot of training and a lot of instinct,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield said the man was conscious and talking, though he seemed to be dazed after he was pulled out of the water. She, Rohrback and Alston said they themselves did not realize how cold it was until they got to safety.
“Time just stood still,” Alston said. “I just wanted that winch to get into place so that vehicle could be lifted to get this guy out of there.”
Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a Prince George’s County police spokesman, said investigators are looking into why the SUV left the roadway. Fire officials said the rescued man was in his 20s, but they and police would not name him.
Hatfield, Rohrback and Alston said they were reluctant to accept the “hero” moniker.
“I would like to think that if we weren’t there, any citizen would have done what we did,” Hatfield said. “We were definitely at the right place at the right time.”