First responders speak out after saving family from car crash in James River

William Colvin, 56, drowned, according to medical examiner

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - It's not every day first responders are called out for a car upside down in the James River with people in it.

"Medic 1 bring your stuff down here. Two unresponsive patients," firefighters could be heard on the radio with first responders.

Thursday, shortly after 11:30 a.m, was one of those days.

"It is something out of the norm, but it's definitely something that we prepare for," David Jackson, battalion chief, said.

Sgt Brian Smith was one of the first officers to arrive.

"By the time we got around to the back of the car the water got up to my shoulders," Smith said.

Police say one passenger escaped on his own.

The female passenger and driver 56-year-old William Colvin of New Jersey were found unresponsive.

"Bring them down with the monitor. Cardiac arrest equipment. They'll be in charge of the second patient," a firefighter said over the radio.

According to the medical examiner, Dr. Gayle Suzuki, Colvin drowned. His death has been ruled an accident.

Jackson was the battalion chief at the scene.

"My job as incident commander is control all of those, get them aimed in the right direction for what we need to do to rectify the scene and make sure we do it safely, as well," Jackson said.

"Contact the railroad and tell them to shut down the line because we're going to have equipment going in and out for a little bit," a firefighter said over the radio.

In under 20 minutes, emergency medical services personnel had the victims en route to the hospital.

"We worked together to accomplish that mission and try to help people and save their lives," Smith said.

Though the incident ended tragically, first responders say the U.S. Pipe employees who helped also played a part in preventing the outcome from being even worse.

"When you have someone or some people that can start care it really does help," Jackson said.

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