Officer uses kayak to rescue woman from SUV sinking in Detroit River

Bodycam photo courtesy of the Trenton Police Department Trenton Police Sgt. Stephen Lyons tows a woman to shore the Dec. 17 after she drove her vehicle into the Detroit River, near West Road and Riverside Drive, at a high rate of speed.

Bodycam photo courtesy of the Trenton Police Department
Trenton Police Sgt. Stephen Lyons tows a woman to shore the Dec. 17 after she drove her vehicle into the Detroit River, near West Road and Riverside Drive, at a high rate of speed.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON – Police Sgt. Stephen Lyons saved the life of a 53-year-old Taylor woman Dec. 17, using a kayak to rescue her from a rapidly sinking SUV in the Detroit River.

Director of Police and Fire Services Steven Voss said Dec. 21 that the woman remains hospitalized and police officials have been unable to question her. He added that medical privacy laws prevent details about her condition from being released.

Voss said dive team removed the vehicle from the Detroit River Dec. 19, and vehicle data collection instrumentation has been retrieved, but is heavily water damaged.

Voss said emergency calls came into dispatch about 3:45 p.m. Dec. 17 when several witnesses said a woman driving at a high rate of speed launched a white sport utility vehicle into the Detroit River near West Road and Riverside Drive.

Voss said patrol officers spotted the vehicle in the river, 40 to 50 feet out from shore, and sinking, with a woman visible in the driver’s seat.

“One of our officers took it upon himself to commandeer a kayak from a home there that borders the water,” Voss said. “He went out in the kayak, paddled out to the car, and as he got to the car it was just about going under.”
Voss said Lyons took the butt end of the paddle and broke the back hatch window, and as the vehicle continued to sink, he held out the paddle to the woman, who was able to grab it as Lyons pulled her from the vehicle and towed her to shore while she held on to the kayak.

“He actually paddled back with one hand with the paddle holding her still in the water,” Voss said. “He couldn’t put her in the kayak because they were worried it would flip over.”

Voss said Lyons paddled back to shore, landing at the northern tip of Elizabeth Park.

It was later learned that the kayak, key to the rescue effort, belongs to City Councilman Bob Howey.
Lyons reportedly was fine, other than being wet and cold. The woman was taken to Beaumont Hospital, Trenton, to be treated for hypothermia, which occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can generate it, causing a drastic drop in a person’s body temperature.

Voss said Dec. 18 police had not determined why she drove into the water.

“We are not sure if there was a medical problem,” Voss said. “We aren’t ruling out anything. It certainly sounds like (a suicide) on the surface. That is one avenue, (or) OWI, or mechanical problems with the vehicle.”

OWI is an acronym for “operating while intoxicated.”

Voss said all Trenton police officers wear body cams, which activate when an officer starts running. Images released to the public block the woman’s face, since her name has not been released.

The body worn cameras, or BWCs, that the officers all wear are part of a pilot program being developed by Equature, headquartered in Southfield, an international company which develops technology for public safety organizations that incorporates interactive response software.
Its 911 recording software include evidence management applications, with live streaming video and audio smartphone BWCs for first responders. The BWCs let law enforcement personnel to see, hear and manage situations in real time.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at  sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)

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