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GIRARD LAKE Jeep sinks in icy water; diver looks for driver



Published: Mon, January 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A passenger got out safely and was treated at a hospital.

GIRARD -- A search for a Girard man will continue today after authorities found his four-wheel-drive vehicle in a section of Girard Lower Lake.

Capt. Frank Bigowsky of the Girard Police Department said a diver from the Girard Fire Department found the Jeep early Sunday evening and "worked valiantly to find the driver," who was identified as James Rees, 42, of Girard.

"The diver spent a good hour in that water trying to find this individual," Bigowsky said Sunday night at the police station.

A passenger, Jamie Ross, 35, also of Girard, was able to get out before the vehicle sank, Bigowsky said. He said Ross was waiting on a nearby river bank when authorities arrived. He said her vital signs appeared stable when she was taken by ambulance to Forum Health Northside Medical Center.

A Forum Health nursing supervisor said Ross was treated and released Sunday night.

Bigowsky said he believed Ross was Rees' sister-in-law.

Getting the call

He said the department got a call about 4:30 p.m. that a vehicle had driven onto Girard Lower Lake, and the vehicle broke through the ice.

Girard officers and firefighters were assisted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Liberty and Weathersfield police departments, and the Trumbull County Haz-Mat team.

Bigowsky said authorities think Rees may have gotten out of the vehicle, but succumbed to the effects of the icy water. He said unless Rees turned up later or the department received a call that he was safe, authorities were assuming his body remains under water.

Calling off the search

The search was called off after 6 p.m. because of darkness and the possibility of further unsafe ice conditions.

Bigowsky said many tracks were on the icy lake caused by motorcycles and snowmobiles, so Rees was not the only vehicle driving on the lake surface Sunday.

"This was an accident waiting to happen to someone breaking through the ice," the captain said.

"Driving on the lake with any type of vehicle is prohibited," Bigowsky added. "Those individuals that do so not only risk their own safety due to the conditions of the ice, but also risk being cited for trespass."

He said the area of the lake where the vehicle sank was about 8 feet to 10 feet deep.

He added police will talk to Ross to find out exactly what happened.

He said he believes Rees and Ross entered the lake area off the Oakwood Estates housing development near Tibbetts-Wick Road. Authorities had to use Anderson-Morris Road to gain access to the area to begin rescue operations.




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