Military News

Monday, June 15, 2015

Air Force marine patrol prevents suicidal drowning

by Senior Airman Ned T. Johnston
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

6/11/2015 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- "Gearing up for work every day, we prepare for any number of different scenarios. We prepare ourselves physically and mentally to handle whatever we could encounter that day. We'd like to believe, here in the marine patrol, that we're ready for anything," explained Senior Airman Cale Schumacher, 6th Security Forces Squadron marine patrolman.

February 15, 2015, tested the legitimacy of Senior Airman Schumacher's statement when he and three other marine patrolmen witnessed and subsequently rescued a woman who was trying to commit suicide by driving her motor vehicle off of a boat ramp on MacDill into the Hillsborough Bay.

Schumacher and Senior Airman Christopher Fitchett were on their way to the boat ramp to launch their patrol boat for the day when they saw a vehicle backed up to the edge of the water on the ramp.

"When we got out of our truck and approached her vehicle to see what was going on, she covered the windshield with a sun visor and floored it in reverse into the water. Her car didn't immediately sink, but it did start to drift away from the ramp into the bay," explained Schumacher.

With the car slowly sinking and drifting away from the shoreline, Schumacher knew he needed to act quickly. He jumped into the water to retrieve the woman from the vehicle as Fitchett alerted the other patrol boat in the area of the situation. When Schumacher reached the vehicle, he tried to break the sunroof with his elbow, but to no avail.

"I called back to Fitchett at the truck to throw me a baton, so that I could break into the car," said Schumacher. "When Fitchett threw me the baton from the dock, I was able to break my way into the vehicle."

This was just the start to the rescue mission though. With a now broken passenger-side window, the car was taking on even more water than before. The woman inside the vehicle was warning Schumacher that she didn't want to have to hurt him, and that she wanted him to leave her to die.

"When I entered the vehicle, the woman had her seat belt fastened, and she had locked her arms through the steering wheel," explained Schumacher. "She fought every attempt I made to try and remove her from the vehicle."

Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Melvin Santos and Senior Airman Colin Williams in the other patrol boat came to the scene and saw that the vehicle had traveled a good distance from the ramp and that it was now in deeper water. In an effort to get the vehicle to shallower waters, they used their patrol boat to push the vehicle as close as they could back to the boat ramp.

Schumacher was finally able to gain compliance from the woman and took her out of the vehicle through the now fully submerged passenger-side window.

Security Forces personnel detained the woman when Schumacher made it to shore with her and MacDill fire fighters used a fire winch to pull the vehicle from the bay. Authorities later found a knife in the woman's waistband and a new pistol in the trunk of her car with 75 rounds of ammunition.

Schumacher finished recalling the events that took place that day by saying, "my team being prepared to handle extreme circumstances was the difference between that woman taking her own life or us saving it."

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