A tragic story out of southern Trinity County over the weekend, an elderly man drove his truck into the lake.
The man, 87-year-old Gerald Fellows, died.
Miraculously, his wife Annetta found an air pocket in the truck and managed to survive.
It was just another Sunday stroll through the neighborhood for Gerald and Annetta Fellows when tragedy struck.
Police say around 4:00 p.m. Fellows pulled into his driveway when he possibly had a medical episode (heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest, etc.) causing him to drive straight into the lake.
“The truck floated out about 50 yards and then it completely submerged under the water trapping everybody inside the vehicle,” said Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace.
A terrifying ordeal followed as the couple remained trapped inside until help arrived 30 minutes later.
Sheriff Wallace says obstacles en route to the scene are partly to blame for the long wait.
“There’s not a whole lot we could do to get there faster, everybody was running,” the sheriff said. “A lot of cars were not getting out of the way, which I was very disappointed in the way a lot of traffic was moving. They were just driving along like nothing was wrong.”
A convoy of sheriff’s deputies, game wardens, Trinity Volunteer Firemen and neighbors rolled in to help.
“A gut feeling said I hope they’re not going to where I just left,” said Christopher Seitz, a neighbor.
Once there, first responders couldn’t see the truck. Fortunately the neighbor who witnessed the event unfold and called 9-1-1 was able to tell responders where to look.
“The vehicle was totally submerged, you couldn’t see it,” said Sheriff Wallace. “The officers had to swim out to where they thought the vehicle may have been and they were able to reach down and they could touch the cab of the truck sitting where it had come to rest on the lake floor.”
The officers, firemen and game warden started taking turns diving under the water in search of a way to get Mrs. Fellows out.
“Eventually they were able to break out the back glass where the female, Mrs. Fellows, she said she had found an air pocket in the vehicle to where she was able to continue breathing until we were able to get here out,” said Sheriff Wallace.
Once out responders swam with Mrs. Fellows more than 50 yards back to shore, Sheriff Wallace says they were completely exhausted after the swim.
Now there was Mr. Fellows and the family dog still inside, the few who had not swam to shore got to work.
“They came across a dog in the vehicle out scratching and trying to get out so one of them pulled it through the window, it came up and they were able to get it out,” said Sheriff Wallace. “Then the game warden (Randy Watts) and another deputy went down and they were able to grab Mr. Fellows and pull him out, they did the same thing they drug him back to shore swimming because there were no boats in the water.”
EMS was on scene by this time. Attempts to revive Mr. Fellows were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A devastating loss for the community.
“I’ve been coming up here since 1979 and he was always a good neighbor,” said Seitz. “Whether it was fishing or to help you with your car he would always be helpful.”
Despite it all, authorities say it could have been worse.
“This is something that seconds counted, another 30 seconds and this lady may not have made it,” said Sheriff Wallace.
The tragedy also served as a reminder that it’s never a bad time to stop and talk to your friends.
“Actually what went through my mind was I said to myself I should have stopped and seen him last week, and I didn’t stop,” said Seitz.