MUNCIE, Ind. — A young woman is recovering after the quick actions of three Muncie police officers who rescued her from a sinking vehicle in the White River.
It happened around 1:20 a.m. Sunday. The call initially came in around West Main and Jackson streets, but the vehicle was later located south of White River Boulevard and Jackson Street. Police said that’s because the current was pulling her vehicle down the river.
In the 911 call, you can hear the 18-year-old driver say, “I am in the White River and my car doors won’t open. I don’t know what happened.”
The dispatcher remained on the phone with her for more than six minutes, trying to keep her calm and find a way out.
At one point, the young woman said, “It’s so cold, and it’s coming up to my neck. It’s not stopping.”
Muncie Police Officer Casey Bell was the first one to jump in the water. He said he took off his gear and quickly went in to help.
“I tried to open the doors on the driver’s side and the back driver’s side wouldn’t open up,” Bell said.
Sgt. James Lenox was behind him. Bell asked him for his baton and, without hesitating, Lenox said he jumped into the water with his gear to hand it to him. Bell then used it to shatter the window.
“It was probably four or five hits and I finally got a hole big enough to stick my hand through, but when I stuck my hand through, it still wouldn’t open from the inside. Something was wrong with the door. So, I broke all the glass from the window and reached in to check to see if she had a seatbelt on and thankfully, she didn’t. So, I was able to pull her out through the window,” Bell said.
Lenox was also in the water at the time. He said the current was so strong, at one point, his body was sideways as he held on.
“As soon as you got in the water, it took your breath away. It was cold. It came up to my neck, and I was basically horizontal, so, it was going down my vest,” Lenox said.
When he looked in the car, he said he thought he saw a passenger. In the body camera footage, Lenox said “Is anyone in there? I saw a head.”
Since Lenox didn’t have his baton, he said he tried using a pocketknife to crack the window, but it wouldn’t break.
“I saw something floating right there by my head and it looked like somebody trying to get out,” Lenox said.
By then, the car was almost underwater, and it was difficult to see.
Since Lenox had his gear on, Sgt. Gregory Skaggs quickly got into the car to check for other people.
“I was thinking we are going to lose somebody if we don’t do something quickly,” Skaggs said. “I told Officer Bell, ‘Grab my legs. I am going in the back to see if I can find anybody.’”
Thankfully, no one else was in the vehicle. Lenox said he stayed until the tow truck came to pull it out.
“I didn’t leave until they pulled that car out of there and nobody was in there. I made sure of that,” Lenox said.
That night was hectic for the department, which saw officers dispatched to multiple incidents including a shooting, armed robbery and a large fight involving around 200 people. Skaggs said as much as they appreciate the support for their heroism, many other officers also helped keep the community safe that night.
The officers also credit the dispatcher for staying calm and helping the young woman until help arrived.
After being rescued, the young woman was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.