Firefighters rescue elderly Mass. driver from submerged car in R.I. river

"They 100 percent saved the guy's life. He would have died."

An elderly Massachusetts man was pulled from a Rhode Island river on Monday night after he drove his car into the water in Westerly.

Firefighters reached the vehicle in an inflatable boat and broke open the man’s car window to pull him free, Westerly Police Chief Paul Gingerella told The Providence Journal.

“They 100 percent saved the guy’s life,” Gingerella said. “He would have died.”

According to the Westerly Fire Department, dispatchers received a call around 8:28 p.m. reporting that a car entered the Pawcatuck River. The river straddles the Connecticut and Rhode Island border, and the driver drove in from the former’s side.

Gingerella told the Journal the car floated downstream and began to sink within five minutes.


The car was nearly fully submerged for about 20 minutes before crews were able to rescue the man, he said.

“They had a hard time getting to the car,” he said.

The man, who was suffering from hypothermia, was brought to Westerly Hospital, said Gingerella, who did not know the man’s exact age but told the Journal he was born in the 1930s.

Police in Stonington, Connecticut are looking into what caused the man to drive into the river.


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