'Hesitation doesn't have a place in this job'; Lynchburg officers recall James River crash rescue

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)-- When a car crashed into the James River in Downtown Lynchburg Thursday morning, medics, officers and even civilians rushed to the river to help.

Witnesses say they saw the SUV speeding down Seventh Street before going airborne and crashing into the James River. Three people were inside.

"Hectic and cold," said Sgt. Brian Smith, when asked to describe what the scene felt like.

He said the environment was hectic because of the emergency personnel who flooded the parking lot. He used the word "cold" to describe the water he rushed into.

Smith, with the Lynchburg Police Department, was the third or fourth officer to arrive at the river. He saw the car half submerged in the water and said it was a sight that gave no room for hesitation. He immediately helped pull two people, who were not breathing, onto the river bank and then went into the river to make sure no one else was in the car.

"I have never gone in a river in my uniform before, so that was a first," said Smith.

Witnesses say they saw the SUV speeding down Seventh Street before going airborne and crashing into the James River. Three people were inside.

"There was a lot going on all at once," said Officer Kayla Young.

Young was at the department with two of her coworkers when they heard the call come in over the scanner. They rushed to the scene.

Young and Officer John Pavia performed CPR on the driver and a female passenger. Officer Saddraid Hubbard joined Sgt. Smith in the water.

"I could hear people saying they were not sure if there was anyone else inside," said Hubbard.

As the first responders worked to save the people's lives, they learned that they were all family members: a father, mother and their son.

"It wasn't just three random strangers. It was a family and that was unfortunately broken apart," said Pavia.

Despite the officers' work, the quick-thinking medics and the civilians who jumped into the water before first responders got to the scene, the driver of the car died at the hospital. The medical examiner's office determined that William Colvin, of New Jersey, drowned.

Colvin's wife is in critical condition and their son walked away with minor injuries.

"I hope the family can find some comfort in knowing that we were able to help at least one person that day," said Hubbard.

It is a result they are proud of, but one they say they played a small part in achieving.

"I know that we are the ones on camera, but we definitely were not the only ones down there," said Young.

The officers said they were just doing their job.

"They jumped into water up to their necks wearing 25 pounds of gear to try and save someone's life who they never met before," said Chief Ryan Zuidema. "They, I know, don't consider themselves heroes, but if that is not heroic, I don't know what is."

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