Officials await autopsy results in fatal pond crashIt could be three weeks before autopsy results provide investigators with clues as to what may have caused a 61-year-old woman to apparently lose control of her car and fatally crash into a pond outside Cabela’s Thursday.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
It could be three weeks before autopsy results provide investigators with clues as to what may have caused a 61-year-old woman to apparently lose control of her car and fatally crash into a pond outside Cabela’s Thursday.
Authorities identified the driver of the vehicle late Thursday as Jane Virginia Strong, 61, of rural Mitchell. Strong was pronounced dead at the scene.
An autopsy was completed Friday, but investigators will have to wait for the full report to be completed before more can be learned about what may have caused Strong to crash, said Mitchell Police investigator Joel Reinesch .
“I don’t think we’ll have any new information prior to that report coming out,” Reinesch said.
Emergency 911 calls placed at 3:04 p.m. alerted authorities of the crash, and rescue workers were on scene within minutes. Several bystanders had already jumped in the water in attempts to rescue the woman.
Emergency vehicles surrounded the pond and two rescue divers eventually located the vehicle, which had sunk into 18 feet of murky water. It was pulled from the pond around 5:45 p.m.
Authorities confirmed Strong was the only person in the vehicle, a late-model Pontiac Bonneville.
Strong’s vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when it entered the pond from the south side and sank. The car had been traveling west on Spruce Street when it entered the Holiday Inn Express lot, struck an entrance sign and a parked van, and continued west into a grassy area. The vehicle then did a swooping curve and went over concrete barriers and into the pond.
An eyewitness, Crystal Kendrick, of Mitchell, said she saw the car go into the pond.
“It was bad, so I called 911 right away,” Kendrick said.
She saw the car leave Spruce Street, hit the sign and careen into the pond, she reported. The car was moving “very fast,” said Kendrick, 41, and the driver did not appear to use her brakes.
Upon realizing it was serious, Kendrick said after she called 911, she burst into tears.
The pond, located just east of Cabela’s, is occasionally used for small fishing events at the store. The water is 18 feet deep in the area the car sank, and is even deeper in other areas.
Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris said even the rescue crew was surprised by the depth of the pond.
“I don’t think anyone had a clue it was that deep,” Morris said. “It was a good education for me.”
Although tragic, Morris said the incident was a valuable lesson for the city’s relatively inexperienced rescue dive team, which was just formed earlier this year.
“The job is always first,” he said. “But every event we go to is a learning experience.”
The city plans to have members take part in more extensive water rescue classes next year, Morris said. Until then, the divers will continue to learn on the job.
“It’s like in anything,” Morris said. “You’re constantly learning and constantly building your team.”
Cabela’s General Manager Mike Fox said the store has no plans at this point to make any changes to the pond after the crash.