Haverhill Chief Honors Firefighters for Rescue of Man From Car Sinking in Merrimack River

Haverhill firefighters and other first responders on the banks of the Merrimack River. (Mike Jarvis photograph for WHAV News.)

Haverhill firefighters are being honored for last week’s rescue of an older man who accidentally drove his car into the Merrimack River.

Haverhill Fire Chief Robert M. O’Brien said Monday he issued letters of commendation to a crew of 10 that worked collaboratively to break into the car which was quickly sinking last Monday night about 30 to 40 feet offshore near the Crescent Yacht Club.

“Given the situation in the dark and fast-moving water, they just did a great job. All of them,” O’Brien told WHAV. “It was a very smooth operation. The speed tin which they got this gentleman out was really well done.”

He noted Deputy Fire Chief Gregg Roberts and crews from Engine 3, based at Water Street, and Engine 4, based at the Bradford station, were the first on scene where the car was being carried away by fast currents following recent rains. Simultaneously, O’Brien added, the Rescue 1 crew manned the boat and crossed the river from Water Street.

The chief said he is thankful the city’s Water Street docks remained in the Merrimack River where crews deployed the department’s rescue boat.

“They positioned the boat so they could access the rear window of the car. When you open a window or break a window to get someone out, the situation deteriorates very quickly because the air pocket is gone and the car will sink,” O’Brien explained.

“The crew operating the boat broke the back window and retrieved the man from the car out through the back window. Then, the car sank,” the chief added. Next, the car was tied off to keep it from moving down stream until a tow truck could retrieve it the next morning.

Engine 4 and Trinity EMS assembled at the dock outside the Crescent Yacht Club to receive the rescued driver and take him to the hospital.

O’Brien gave letters of commendation to Roberts; Rescue 1 crew of Capt. Rich Shellene and firefighters Matt Ortins and Shane Surette; Engine 3 team of Lt. George Pappas and firefighters Corey Pond and Mike Foustoukos; Engine 4 crew of Lt. Henry Schlothan and firefighters Devon Wildes and John MacDonald. He also praised Haverhill police officers and Trinity EMS staff for their roles.

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