Passersby waded into frigid waters Friday, Nov. 6, to rescue a driver in a submerged SUV that crashed into Bellingham Bay off Lummi Shore Road.
The driver, Dale A. Schmidt, 63, a resident of the Lummi Reservation, suffered critical injuries. He was resuscitated — unconscious, but breathing and with a pulse — by CPR, said Sgt. Shane Rogers of the Washington State Patrol.
Just before leaving his home Schmidt told his wife he was going to get groceries in their navy blue ’86 Chevy Blazer, according to the state patrol.
Around 2 o’clock the northbound Chevy crashed over a short, rocky seawall in the 2200 block of Lummi Shore Road. At first no one in the neighborhood realized what had happened, said Garnet Adams, 53, who lives at 2289 Lummi Shore. Adams was inside, with the front door open and his police scanner on, when he heard crashing sounds. He figured it was his neighbor working in the yard.
Then a next-door address was broadcast over police radio, and Adams hurried outside to see the SUV submerged in about 5 feet of water, nose first, about 20 yards off shore. The driver suffered a severe head injury and might have been in the cold water for three or four minutes, face down, Adams said.
People stopped their cars and plunged into the cold water to drag Schmidt from the SUV. He was the only one in the Chevy. Once they got him to shore, they performed CPR. Moments later tribal police arrived and took over the chest compressions.
By the time Schmidt was loaded into an ambulance, he had a pulse, Sgt. Rogers said. He was breathing. Aid workers rushed him to St. Joseph hospital.
“He’s alive?” Adams said, in disbelief, when a reporter relayed what troopers said.
No witnesses of the actual crash had been found as of 4 p.m., according to the state patrol. Schmidt wasn’t wearing a seat belt, troopers said. They had a few ideas about the crash’s cause, Rogers said, but authorities wanted to investigate further before drawing conclusions.
According to National Weather Service data, the bay’s temperature ranged from the low 50s to high 40s on Friday afternoon.