UPDATE: Pond crash heroes speak out after rescuing driver

The silver car in the lake after the crash. Eddie Mitchell
The silver car in the lake after the crash. Eddie Mitchell

Two men have described the moment they leapt to the rescue of a motorist who crashed into a pond in Loxwood.

Joel Colbran and Greg White pulled a driver free from his submerged Volkswagen Golf after it crashed through concrete bollards and overturned into a pond on the B2133 Vicarage Hill last Friday (July 28).

Joel Colbran playing for Loxwood FC.  09-16. Pic Steve Robards SR1627618 SUS-160924-125545001

Joel Colbran playing for Loxwood FC. 09-16. Pic Steve Robards SR1627618 SUS-160924-125545001

Police said the driver, a 31-year-old man from Rustington, was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital with water ingestion. He has since been transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where he remains in a serious but stable condition.

Greg, 32, a geologist, from Grayshott, Surrey, was one of the first on the scene and immediately leapt to the driver’s aid.

He said: “I was on the way to work when I saw this car come around the corner as I pulled up at the junction, and then I saw it go up the grass verge and into the pond. At that stage, I pulled into the layby and got on my phone to call 999 straight away.

“The strange thing was I couldn’t describe the location at first, because I was just in such a state of shock. Another man who heard what happened came to help, so I handed my phone to him and asked him to explain what happened to the operator.

“I initially stood at the edge of the pond to see if someone was going to come out of the car, but it soon became clear this wasn’t going to happen, so I stripped down to my boxers and jumped in.”

Joel, an aviation sales executive, who also plays for Loxwood FC, mirrored Greg’s actions.

The 18-year-old said: “It was such a shock when I realised what was going on that the adrenaline just took over and we did what we had to do without even having time to think about it.

“I saw Greg jump into the water and I knew I couldn’t let him go in alone, so I jumped in after him. At this point we didn’t know how many people were in the car; we just knew we had to get whoever was in there out as quickly as we could.

“Greg got to the car before me and it wasn’t fully submerged at that point, so we managed to get the door open, but it was so murky we couldn’t see anything or anyone inside.

“I remember us both putting our hands inside the car and waving them around under the water, trying to feel something, at which point Greg came across a person’s arm. He took a deep breath and went in, and managed to undo the man’s seatbelt. Even then, it was a real struggle to pull him out.

“As we did, I held his upper body and Greg had hold of his lower, and at this stage the man was very pale and unresponsive. We managed to get him up onto the bank, and I lifted his head and turned it to the side, at which point he coughed up pond water. This was a relief, but we remained concerned as the man appeared to still be unconscious. We pulled him up onto the bank and put him in the recovery position, and we covered him to keep him warm while we waited for the emergency services to arrive.”

Police, paramedics and firefighters all attended and the road was closed for about three hours.

Greg added: “Luckily there was someone there who was trained in CPR, and they got him in the recovery position and looked after him before the emergency services arrived.

“At that point, Joel and I went back in the pond to check if there was anyone else in the car. We got out of the water and by that stage a lot of people were around, and some of them were helping us with clothes to keep us warm.

“It was all such an experience.”

PC Jon Bennion-Jones, of the Arundel Roads Policing Unit praised the pair on their heroics.

He said: “Having ingested a large amount of water, the swift actions of these two men should be commended. The driver is very fortunate that there were people immediately there to help and that no one else was involved or injured.

“There is now an ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the collision, and we are appealing for anyone with any information to come forward.”

The vehicle was travelling northbound when the incident occurred, close to the junction with Skiff Lane.

Anyone with information is asked to email collision.appeal@sussex.pnn.police.uk, quoting serial 241 of 28/07.