PITTSFIELD — A Waterville woman was rescued from her sinking car in the Sebasticook River on Monday morning by emergency responders who swam to the car, according to police.
Delores Whitee, 69, was northbound on Route 100 about 10:15 a.m. when she lost control of the car, hit a utility pole and crashed into the river. Her car ended up about 40 yards from shore, according to Pittsfield police Officer Jeff Vanadestine.
Rich Babnaw, a UPS driver who saw the accident, called 911 and police arrived within minutes, Vanadestine said.
When Vanadestine got there, the gray 2006 Subaru Forester was nearly submerged in about 12 feet of water and Whitee was trapped inside, he said.
“I didn’t even think about it. I just started swimming,” said Vanadestine, who has been with the department for 14 years. He said Monday’s rescue was one of the most difficult he has done, partly because of the cold, rainy weather.
Vanadestine was one of three men who swam out, broke the back windows of the car with a police baton and pulled Whitee out. There were only a few inches of air space in the car and Whitee, who was the only occupant, was under water for almost three minutes, he said.
Pittsfield Police Chief Steven Emery and Ryan Michael Havey, a firefighter with the Pittsfield Fire Department, also swam to the car to help with the rescue, which took place only hundreds of feet from the Burnham dam, a nearly 50-foot dropoff. The dam was closed during Monday morning’s rescue.
Vanadestine said Whitee lost consciousness once they got to shore and they performed CPR on her. She was taken by ambulance to Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield and later transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. A hospital spokeswoman said Monday evening that there was no information available on Whitee’s condition.
Vanadestine said he thought Whitee may have suffered a medical problem that led to the accident, which occurred about five miles south of downtown Pittsfield. The car was ruined in the accident.
Kevin Pelotte, of the fire department, said he estimated that the water was around 40 or 50 degrees.
Cold water cools the brain and slows the body’s metabolism, making it possible for the body to function with a slowed heart rate, Pelotte said.
“No matter how long someone has been under water, we don’t give up on them,” he said.
Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at: