GREENWOOD, Ind — A man died after crashing his SUV into a retention pond Saturday afternoon in Greenwood.
The White River Township Fire Department said they were dispatched to the crash shortly before 3:30 p.m. in the area of North State Road 135 and West Main Street.
According to the department, when firefighters arrived, they found bystanders trying to rescue 73-year-old Norman Helmke from the submerged SUV. Responders called their efforts “heroic.”
“It’s a really remarkable show of concern for human kind,” said Chief Jeremy Pell of the White River Township Fire Dept.
“When I get the chance to see them, I’m going to express to them how grateful I am for them that they’re willing to take a risk like that,” he said. “I’m glad that they called 911 quickly. I’m glad that they didn’t spend too much time in the water because it’s not survivable without the right equipment.”
Nicholas Collier, a Marine Corps veteran, is one of those brave bystanders who said he rushed to help Saturday.
Collier was driving through the area when he noticed the SUV in the water and people gathering around the side of the pond.
“That was just when instinct took over, you know? I realized someone could possibly be in there, and we weren’t gonna get him out just by looking at it,” said Collier, who jumped into the frigid water in just a tee-shirt, jeans and steel toe boots.
He said when he got in the water, there were already three or four others doing everything they could to try and get the man out.
“It was just instantly I knew we had to do something, and I didn’t know what that something was in that moment. I just knew we needed to get into the water, we needed to try, and we tried to open doors. We tried to bust out windows.”
Collier was visibly emotional Saturday night as he spoke with CBS4. He said he spent several hours processing what happened and running through the “what ifs.”
“I have to just keep telling myself there was nothing we could do, and we tried our best,” he said.
Collier wants family and loved ones of Helmke to know that they did everything they could before rescue crews arrived and that he wasn’t alone in those moments.
“I just want them to know we did everything we could, and we tried, and we got in the water, and it was cold. I wish I could have done more, but I couldn’t, and I’m sorry.”
Divers from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and the Indianapolis Fire Department arrived on scene to assist. Crews were able to rescue the driver from the SUV a short while later. Fire officials said Helmke was believed to be in the vehicle for close to an hour before he was rescued and transported to the hospital.
“It was quite the challenge for the dive teams,” said Pell.
The department was assisted at the scene by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, Greenwood Police Department, the White River Fire Department and Indianapolis Fire Department.
The cause of the accident remains under investigation.