Three Muncie police officers saved the life of a young woman who drove her car into the river early Sunday morning. Around 1:20 a.m. the Muncie Police Department (MPD) received a chilling phone call that initially came in by West Main and Jackson streets. However, the vehicle was found south of White River Boulevard. MPD says this is due to the strong current that night, pulling her vehicle quickly down the river. Officer Casey Bell was the first to arrive on scene.
“I could hear her screaming when I got down to the bank of the river. She sounded really frantic, probably scared,” said Bell, “I just took off all my gear and jumped into the river.”
However, Bell was unable to open the doors of the vehicle due to the pressure of the water. He went back to the bank to grab a baton, in hopes the window would break. Sergeant Gregory Skaggs was also on the scene of the incident.
“As I’m looking around and not seeing a vehicle, I hear officer Bell call saying that he located the vehicle on the other side of the bridge,” said Skaggs, “I drive down the greenway and I hear him try to break down the window at that point. That’s when I decided to jump in.”
Sergeant James Lenox was on the scene as well, and jumped in immediately, not even thinking about taking his gear off before he did so. Lenox has done multiple river rescues over his 18 years of service for the MPD, but he says that this rescue was definitely the most emotional for him.
“It brought back memories of when my youngest daughter was two, she just about drowned,” Lenox said, “It’s the feeling of helplessness, you can’t get in there, I’m thinking somebody’s in there and I can’t get them out. Sergeant Skaggs volunteered to go in to help alleviate that.”
Lenox thought he saw another person in the vehicle. Skaggs jumped in once again after the driver was out of the car and safe on the bank. By that time the vehicle was completely underwater. Officer Bell held Skaggs’ legs up as he went underwater to search for another person. Luckily, there was no one else in the vehicle. What Lenox actually saw was a pillow.
“Better to be safe than sorry,” said Lenox, “I didn’t leave until the car got pulled out of the water, no one else was in there. I wanted to make sure of that.”
The 18-year-old driver was taken to the hospital that night to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. This incident was purely an accident due to inexperienced driving, there is currently no criminal investigation.
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