Woman rescued by good Samaritans after crash into retention pond at Pleasant Gap Fish Hatchery

Quick thinking by two good Samaritans saved an elderly woman leaving the Steeplechase housing development who crashed into a retention pond on the Pleasant Gap Fish Hatchery property off Axemann Road Wednesday morning.

Around 11:20 a.m., first responders were called to the scene of a vehicle submerged in water at the retention pond owned by the Fish and Boat Commission. The driver was temporarily trapped in the car, but “several good Samaritans” were able to free her before the vehicle was fully submerged, said Spring Township police Chief Mike Danneker. The woman was uninjured, Danneker said.

“I’ve seen people hit this fence,” Danneker said. “(But) I’ve never seen somebody go completely into the drink, into the water. This is a first.”

Pleasant Gap Fish Hatchery crash
Emergency crews respond to a vehicle that crashed into a retention pond off Axemann Road in Spring Township on Wednesday. Sarah Paez

James Ard, a member of the Pleasant Gap Fire Company, was sitting at home in the Steeplechase development after an overnight work shift when he heard the call come in over his scanner. He jumped in his truck and was heading to the fire station when he happened upon the accident scene. He saw another good Samaritan — a retired state trooper — who was already in the water, and immediately jumped in to help.

“We went over, swam to the car and we were able to get the back door open because the front was a little sunk down,” Ard said. “We got the back door open and me and the other gentleman pulled the female out over the back seat and then we put her up on top of the car.”

He grabbed a life preserver for the woman, put her in a rescue position and waited for first responders to pull them out of the pond, he said. He estimated the pond was about 10-15 feet deep.

Ard, 20, said he is also a part of the Water Rescue Task Force, made up of four Centre County fire companies including Pleasant Gap, and participated in rescue efforts for a car crash into the lake at Bald Eagle State Park that killed a 19-year-old Belleville resident last May.

“That one unfortunately didn’t turn out as well as this one did,” he said.

He said he is “thankful to God” that he was in the right place to rescue the woman in time.

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash, but Ard said the woman told him her brakes gave out while she was coming down Steeplechase Drive and her car crashed through the fence and into the pond.

Bellefonte and Pleasant Gap EMS, Bellefonte police and state police responded alongside Spring Township police and the Pleasant Gap Fire Company.

Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.