RACINE — The driver of a pickup truck died Monday night after his vehicle became submerged in a pond in front of the High Ridge Centre shopping center, Racine police said.
Racine police and fire units were dispatched to the pond that fronts Chase Bank, Home Depot and Toys R Us at 7:48 p.m. Monday.
According to Racine police Sgt. Adam Malacara, witnesses said the truck lost control in the parking lot near the bank, located at the southeast corner of South Green Bay Road (Highway 31) and 21st Street. Witnesses told The Journal Times that the truck hit a light pole just prior to heading down the embankment into the pond. There were also several unconfirmed reports that the driver was operating erratically just prior to the incident.
According to Battalion Chief Willie Hargrove of the Racine Fire Department, an off-duty firefighter was on scene just after the truck went into the water and tried unsuccessfully to get to the driver.
Fire Department divers were in the water by 8:02 p.m. and the driver was extricated from the vehicle by 8:09 p.m., Hargrove said.
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The driver was rushed to Ascension All Saints Hospital. Police did not release his identity Monday.
Malacara said the driver was the lone occupant of the vehicle, although police did respond to an address in Sturtevant to confirm that a another man who was reported to possibly be in the truck was OK. The man was located, police reported.
The Fire Department dispatched a boat to the scene and and Flight for Life was requested to respond but did not land at the scene.
Portions of Highway 31 (South Green Bay Road) near the crash scene were closed for a time as emergency crews worked the scene.
The truck initially was reported to be partially submerged after the crash but police provided an update and reported that the truck had fully submerged before fire crews arrived on scene.
Amanda Gain was one of the first people to happen upon the scene.
“It was a matter of maybe 5 minutes, it was fully submerged underwater. It went down really fast,” Gain said. “You could see one person in the driver’s seat moving as it went under the water. That is when EMTs and divers and police and everyone started finally coming. It didn’t take long; it was a matter of minutes for that whole vehicle to go under.”
Anthony Earl, an employee at Home Depot, was outside collecting carts when he heard a vehicle skidding and then saw it go into the water.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Earl said.
Most fire units had cleared the scene by 9:30 p.m. although police remained on scene investigating.
Malacara said the investigation is ongoing but said police are interested in hearing from anyone who might have additional information about the incident. They can call the Police Department’s Investigations Unit at 262-635-7756.
Ricardo Torres, Stephanie Jones and Pete Wicklund contributed to this report.