(Beaver Dam) One of the officers who jumped in the Beaver Dam River to rescue the driver in a fatal crash last week tells us that his adrenaline was pumping so much that he hardly noticed the icy cold waters. Police Sergeant Eric Smedema helped save 23-year-old Cindy Lara-Esparza after her vehicle drove off of the Madison Street Bridge. She sustained non-life-threatening injuries but her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jared Frakes, was killed. The four officers who jumped into the rushing water, three-feet deep, were treated for hyperthermia.
Smedema told us Friday on WBEV’s Community Comment that the current was dangerous enough to pull someone downstream. A fifth officer was standing on shore securing ropes that were used to keep those in the river from being swept away. He says when they arrived, at the car the windows were still intact which indicated that there were people still inside.
Smedema says officers attempted to use a baton and a hammer to break the window of the vehicle but to no avail because the car was upside down and too submerged in water. After several moments, the back door was pried open against the current which required officers to hold it open while Smedema checked inside.
He says he saw a car seat but did not notice a child in it and added that it was difficult to observe anything past the front seats. The officers were able to pry the front door open and when they did an arm came up. Smedema says a knife was used to remove the driver from their seatbelt. She was then secured in nylon ropes and was escorted to shore.
Smedema says the timeline is a little fuzzy but it is estimated that the four officers were in the water for around 15 minutes. He says the fire department arrived soon after and was better equipped to handle the water rescue. Chief John Kreuziger commended his officers and says (quote), “that is what we do, run towards issues like this.”
Watch Sgt. Smedema recount the river rescue in the second segment:
Listen to the program here: