A 67-year-old Aberdeen woman drove off the roadway on Highway 12 Friday afternoon, flipping upside down and landing in standing water just off Aberdeen Lake Drive. Quick-thinking bystanders may have saved her life.
She was in good condition at Grays Harbor Community Hospital Friday night.
Stacy Mills of Montesano was driving eastbound on Highway 12 at about 4 p.m. when he saw a van headed the opposite direction drive up an embankment off the highway. He said he thought the van might flip at that point, but the driver got it back onto the roadway and turned at the exit for Aberdeen Lake Drive.
“I thought she pulled back over here and was just getting her breath,” Mills said.
He glanced back again to see the back of the van disappearing into the brush. He turned around to help, parked his truck, and spotted her down a short slope in a large pool of standing water.
“I ran down over the bank, I opened her door. I could hear her talking to me,” he said. “The van was starting to settle, and the top half of her head was in the water. I thought she was going to drown.”
Matt Izatt heard the van hit the water from his nearby home.
“I immediately kicked off my shoes and put on my hip waders,” Izatt said.
He ran into the bog, which usually isn’t there this time of year — a leaky stormwater pipe somewhere seems to be causing the water, he said.
Mills had already called 911, and was holding the woman’s head above the water.
“I asked if she was hurt before I did anything, and she said she was fine,” Mills said.
Carefully, he slipped off her seat belt, trying to avoid injuring her while getting her out of danger of drowning.
“I got in there and we laid her down as easy as we could” on the roof of the flipped van, Mills said. “I stayed with her until everyone else showed up.”
Fortunately, the woman didn’t have a passenger — or land about three feet to the left.
“This side is only nine inches,” Izatt said, pointing at the driver’s side of the van submerged in the water. “The other side is 18-20 inches.”
Mills’ wife, Jennifer, happened by the scene on her way home. She spotted her husband’s truck and thought the worst.
“I thought he got in a wreck,” she said. A car had recently struck the log truck he drives.
When Stacy Mills, already tired and covered in mud, jumped back in the water to help the tow truck remove the van, his wife wasn’t the least bit surprised.
“That’s him,” she said.
Grays Harbor Fire District 2 responded with two ambulances and an engine, as well as seven personnel. They transported the woman to the hospital.
The Washington State Patrol and Fish & Wildlife Enforcement officers responded to the scene.
There was a minor fuel leak from the van, but the Department of Ecology did not respond.