Driver rescued from submerged car near Ellensburg

ELLENSBURG — A witness, who happens to be a former firefighter and lifeguard, and a Washington State Patrol trooper rescued an unconscious driver from a submerged car in a pond, the patrol said.

The car left I-90 Saturday morning near Ellensburg, crashed through a fence and sank in the pond with only the roof visible.

Jim Kocker, 53, of Poulsbo happened to be driving by with his wife and son, on the way to Pullman when they saw the car splash into the water, the Daily Record reported Monday.

“My husband described it as the log ride at a water park,” Laura Kocker said.

Her husband was a firefighter in Los Angeles and a lifeguard as a teen, “in his past life,” she told the newspaper, but “we figured if there’s nothing else, he could do something.”

Kocker stripped down to his jeans and T-shirt and swam about 50 feet to the car.

He couldn’t find a way inside because the doors were locked and windows up. The inside of the car hadn’t yet filled with water, but the man inside responded only slightly when Kocker pounded on the window, Laura Kocker said.

Trooper Jay Farmer arrived, stripped down to his undershirt and pants and went in with Kocker. Using Farmer’s baton, they broke a window, unbuckled the driver and pulled him to shore. He was able to walk to the ambulance with help, but seemed in a daze, Laura Kocker said.

The Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue ambulance took Anthony Scott Johnson, 30, of Seattle to Kittitas Valley Healthcare in Ellensburg.

He was released from the hospital later Saturday, said Trooper Darren Wright. The crash was caused by a medical issue, he said.

“It was amazing that man managed to — thank God for his seat belt,” Laura Kocker said. “Honestly, that young man had an angel on his shoulder.”

She attributed her husband’s experience and quick thinking with helping save the man’s life.

“I’m just going to say this because I love my husband and think what he did is amazing,” she said. “In my book, he was a hero.”

Jim Kocker and Trooper Farmer were both cold from the water, Trooper Wright said.

Kocker “smelled like a fish and was all purple,” his wife said. The family was able to get back on the road to see their daughter at Washington State University, where the Cougars played Oregon State University.

“We did make it to Pullman, and we’re very bummed that our team lost,” she said.

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