Witness on fatal Venice water crash: ‘It was the most disappointing thing in my life'

The man says he was afraid as he tried to save two people in a sinking vehicle.

Update on Tuesday, May 9, 2017: VENICE, Fla. - Police identified the father and daughter killed after a van plunged into the water near South Jetty Park on Monday afternoon.

Venice Police Chief Tom Mattmuller identified the two victims as Carol and Eugene Hayden during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

“There was definitely a lot of effort putting in trying to rescue these two individuals,” Venice Police Chief Tom Mattmuller said.

Tim Cobb witnessed the crash, dove into water and tried to save the victims, who were both Venice residents.

“It was awful,” Cobb said. “It was the most disappointing thing I’ve ever gone through in my life.”

Cobb swam to the passenger’s side of the van, trying to jar the door loose or break open the window.

“The gentleman (Eugene Hayden) in the passenger’s seat was trying to unlock the doors,” Cobb said. “Just with all of the water pressure, it was impossible to open the doors.

“They must’ve been electric windows. I gave them the roll down the window motion, and they just shook their heads and they couldn’t get the windows down.”

Cobb said he yelled for those on shore to throw him a hammer or rock to try to break the windows of the van.

“I saw a lot of people out with their video with their phones out, but not a whole lot of people doing anything,” Cobb said. “It was quite frustrating.”

However, Mattmuller thanked witnesses for their videos in the investigation during Tuesday’s news conference.

“There is a video we were able to obtain from some of the witnesses that was very useful for our traffic homicide investigators,” Mattmuller said.


Watch: Witness: Most were on phones, not helping people in van

Cobb, a friend and a Venice police officer tried to save the Haydens from the van.

"The Good Samaritans (and) the Venice police officer, they all made a valiant effort in very hazardous conditions to rescue the two people," Mattmuller said. "Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful."

A number of agencies responded to the crash, including the Venice Police Department, the Sarasota Sheriff's Office, the Sarasota Police Department, the Northport Police Department and the Florida Wildlife Commission.

The traffic crash report on the case will be available at 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Venice Police Department.

The Venice Police Department is continuing the investigation.

Original Story on Monday, May 8, 2017: VENICE, Fla. -  South Jetty Park has been reopened after crews found a vehicle that plunged into the water in Venice Monday afternoon. Two bodies were discovered inside. 

Authorities brought the van to Higel Park for a further investigation. The park will stay closed until a further investigation is done.  

The van was found around 15 feet under the surface of the water.   

According to Venice Fire Chief Shawn Carvey, the van drove into the water about 4:21 p.m. near the bathrooms at Jetty Park.

A member of the Sarasota sheriff's marine unit saw the van go in the water, swam over and tried to use a rock to break a window.

Venice police and fire crews, along with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and lifeguards were part of the rescue effort.

The van has since been towed out of the water. A man and woman were found inside of the vehicle. 

The investigation into the crash is still under investigation, but police are treating the incident as a traffic homicide. 

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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