Tuesday, November 4, 2003
A teenager’s first driving lesson met a watery end Friday.
Holly Spradlin, 15, and her step-mother, Elisabeth Curry, were unhurt after the car Spradlin drove went into the Hood River and sank.
“It’s the closest I’ve ever been to death,” Curry said Monday. “I just imagined holding Holly and saying goodbye.”
But mother and daughter acted together, averting tragedy by kicking out a car window and swimming to safety, according to Capt. Kevin Lynch of Hood River Police Department.
“It’s not easy to do, especially with water coming in and (people) panicking. It could have been nasty,” he said.
The incident happened Friday at 4 p.m. on Port of Hood River property about 150 yards from the mouth of Hood River. Spradlin had driven around the asphalt-grass Port grounds in first gear and was doing well with stops and turns, so Curry encouraged her to shift into second gear.
Spradlin hit the accelerator instead of the brake, and panicked, according to Curry. The car was traveling at about 60 miles per hour in second gear: “Those 2.5 liter engines have a lot of get-up-and-go,” Curry said.
The car sped east across Second Avenue, sailed over a 15-foot bank and landed upright in the river. En route, the car missed a concrete post and a fence. The car sank with both occupants inside. Water covering their feet, Spradlin got out of her seatbelt first, but Curry struggled with the buckle while Spradlin tried alone to kick out the window. It wouldn’t give.
“It’s a good thing she couldn’t kick it out right away before I got my seat belt off,” Curry said, because the force of the water rushing in would have sucked the car deeper, with Curry immobilized.
But Curry got free and joined Spradlin in kicking at the window. They swam out the open window, and made it to the west bank, where an Olympia man who had put on his wet suit pulled Curry and Spradlin out of the water, with the help of two other witnesses.
Curry said Spradlin “kept her wits about her.”
Lynch said “it sounds like she just froze” at the wheel, before the car went into the river.
“I guess the cold water kind of sobered her up,” he said.
Lynch said the last time a car was known to have gone into the river was about 20 years ago.
Curry’s car was missing as of presstime Tuesday morning. A Hood River County Sheriff’s deputy searched with a depth finder, to no avail.
“We’ve got to get that car out of there (Tuesday),” Lynch said, out of concern for leaking oil and gas. Lynch spent part of Monday arranging a diver to help get the car out. Fortunately, the Accord had a near-empty gas tank, but engine oil is still a concern to Lynch.
Curry bought a new car over the weekend. She said Spradlin’s first concern as she crawled from the water was for the Accord.
“Poor Holly, she kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ I told her, ‘we’re not sorry — we lived.’”
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge